Active-shooter training set Saturday at GPI Airport

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Users of Glacier Park International Airport need not panic when they see a large volume of Flathead Valley emergency responders there Saturday.

The airport is hosting an active-shooter exercise at the airport that day that is expected to last well into the afternoon.

An event organizer said no actual threat exists and participating emergency responders will leave the exercise immediately to respond to any real emergency that may occur.

Emergency-response agencies from across Flathead Valley, the Office of Emergency Services and local hospitals will participate in the exercise.

The event will stress-test a wide range of local services, including county triage, treatment and transport capabilities, hospital abilities and the communication network utilized by emergency response teams.

The exercise is coordinated by Wes Long, fire chief for Glacier Park International Airport.

Exercises like these help local agencies identify strengths and weaknesses in countywide planning.

“Protecting the flying public is absolutely our No. 1 priority, and we’re able to help hone the skills of local response agencies as we test our own mettle,” Airport Director Rob Ratkowski said. “In these exercises, we always learn something new and find an area that we can improve upon.”

Ratkowski also noted the work doesn’t stop when the event ends. He explained that after the exercise is conducted, action plans will be created to facilitate new or refined approaches to improve the Flathead Valley’s emergency-response force capabilities and readiness. A committee will utilize all information gathered from the exercise to establish ongoing training in areas of improvement.

Crews will begin to arrive at the airport at 6:30 a.m. Saturday to ensure that the site is safe, secure and ready for the many responders and volunteers who will participate in the exercise. The safety of all exercise participants is a primary focus of the event and safety practices will be administered by a multi-tiered team of experts.

The airport’s new mass casualty incident trailer will be used for the exercise in conjunction with resources from the Emergency Operations Center.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 406-758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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