Days after a man opened fire in a Colorado movie theater, which CNN reports killed 12 and wounded 58 people, an Elkridge man asked County Executive Ken Ulman for his take.
“How would you handle an Aurora, Colorado, situation?” asked Tony Campise during the Howard County executive's sixth annual public forum.
“You really almost can’t fathom,” said Ulman of the Aurora, CO, shootings. “I will tell you this: after each incident like this around the country—whether it be Columbine or Virginia Tech—our folks have redoubled our efforts to look at our communications plans.”
On Friday, Howard County Police Department officials said they met with the county's two movie theaters to talk about safety in the aftermath of the Colorado theater shooting.
On Monday evening at his public forum, Ulman called on the police chief to help expand on the county’s response.
Police Chief William McMahon, speaking of the Colorado first responders, said: “The initial public reports were that they were on scene within 90 seconds, which is phenomenal, quite frankly."
McMahon said he had been asked about gas masks, because some of the 911 tapes indicated that Colorado officials had to wait to go into the theater, where tear gas had been detonated, since they didn’t have the proper equipment.
“All of our officers in their trunks have gas masks, so that should not be an issue,” said McMahon at the forum.
In fact, Howard County police and fire personnel are armed with more tools that meet the eye, Ulman told Patch after the two-hour event at the Robinson Nature Center in Columbia.
“When a building goes up, we stay ahead of the curve,” he explained, by keeping records of the layout so safety personnel can be prepared for emergencies.
During his days as a County Council member, Ulman recalled, he went for a ride-along with an officer who had binders of building plans in his patrol car.
These days, Ulman added, those plans are all on mobile devices.
Police and fire personnel work closely, training in the mall, in schools and in theaters, said McMahon.
“Are we prepared to handle that?” asked McMahon, going back to the Elkridge man's question about Colorado. ”I think we are as prepared as we can be.”
The training and equipment come to citizens’ aid more often than not, said Ulman: “It pays off all the time,” he said, noting scenarios in which “the tactical team is called in for a domestic situation when there’s a person against their will or a subject trying to commit suicide.”
Said Ulman after the forum: “My heart goes out to the victims of the tragedy. We’ve got to redouble our efforts.”
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