Whatever system you use, be certain that every person (including you!) is triple-checked for weapons and ammo before entering the training area--and triple-checked again if they leave and return for any reason. The triple-check works like this: you check yourself for any weapons or ammo, then your partner checks you, then the instructor or safety officer checks you. Emphasize that the check is a search--not a superficial airport-screener pat-down.
You can avoid most medical and emotional problems by choosing your role-players carefully and requiring everyone to complete a wellness check or Fit-For-Duty form. If you use officers for role players, you probably won't have to worry about them becoming emotionally distraught from the action of a scenario. Civilian role-players, particularly if they are not trained actors, may find some aspects of police training upsetting, especially the use of (realistic) deadly force. It helps to spend some time beforehand telling them what to expect. A wellness check won't catch every medical issue (after all, about one-third of the time, the first warning sign of a heart attack is sudden death), but it will identify some conditions and allow you to assess whether participation in a particular scenario might put someone at undue risk.
What if your prevention efforts aren't enough, and an injury or medical emergency occurs? Be ready to manage it. Generally, that means making sure of two things:
- You have first-aid kits on scene and readily available
- You and all scenario leaders know how to get EMS help to your site
A first-aid kit for scenario-based training should be a step up from a typical Band-Aid®-and-aspirin home kit. Include a variety of sizes of dressings and bandages, cold packs, trauma shears, cardboard or flexible aluminum splints, pocket mask and gloves. If possible, have an automatic external defibrillator (AED) on scene. Your goal should be to make it possible to manage severe bleeding, broken bones, cardiac or respiratory emergencies until EMS is on scene. If you can do all that, you can certainly deal with the more typical scrapes, bruises, and sprained ankles.
Know how to get EMS to your site quickly, particularly if you are doing full-scale simulations involving weapons. Getting EMS may be as simple as calling 911 and waving the ambulance up the driveway. On the other hand, if you are at a remote site with long travel distances, you might want to consider either having a medical unit stand by on site, or being ready to land a medical helicopter. Identify a good landing zone and mark it so the pilot can find it. Have a contingency plan if bad weather grounds the chopper.
In an earlier column, I addressed the question of whether to use officers or civilians as role-players, and noted that there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Either way, you need to train and prepare your role-players properly. Good scenario-based training depends on well-designed scenarios with clear learning (or testing) objectives that are tied into your state's law enforcement training curriculum. Unless your role players understand the objectives, you can't expect them to keep the scenario focused on those objectives. Similarly, unless you give your role-players directions for what they can and cannot do, you can't expect them to stay within the parameters you want.
The best approach is to develop a standard format for scenario development. Include a description of the situation and the training objectives. Give each role-player a fairly detailed description of his or her character: include background information, the character's "agenda" in the scenario, and guidance as to the appropriate attitude to display. Include information as to what the actor may do and may not do. You can't actually script the scenario, because you can't control--or totally predict--what the "officer" will do. Developing a detailed scenario description will make it easier for role-players to stay on track, while still giving them plenty of ad-libbing flexibility.
What if things still go awry? Be sure you have a scenario leader for each scenario and instruct that person to stop the action if it goes too far afield. And if you have a role-player who refuses to stay "in bounds," even after being told the limits--don't continue to use that person as a role-player. You might still be able to use him or her in another capacity, but be careful. Scenario-based training is no place for loose cannons.