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Get a gas mask — and then train

Let me preface this by saying (as emphatically as I possibly can) that the following is not a knock on Aurora PD, its heroic officers, or anybody else. It’s merely one of the dozen or so observations that came to mind as I was listening to the sixteen-and-a-half minute long audio tape of the response to the Aurora (Colo.) massacre.

Among those observations were:

I hope that dispatcher is in attendance at APCO in Minneapolis next month, because I want to shake her hand
I believe that Lincoln 25 is one of those Lieutenants whose composure and leadership is appreciated by his troops
I must find a way to fly to Aurora and personally thank every single one of those responding officers for their valor

We Have to Fix This
I also had a thought after hearing the transmission, “Get us some damned gas masks for theater nine — we can’t get in!”

My thought was, “We need to get every cop in America a good gas mask, and we need to ensure it comes with high-quality training.”

If you’re one of those cops 10-8 out there on the streets without a gas mask, I’m sorry to say you’re not alone. According to a very quick (48 hour) P1 Member Poll posted to the Police1 homepage, only about half of the cops responding said they’re equipped with gas masks (at press time, only 53 percent of officers responding said their agency issues such equipment to them).

This brings up another point, which is probably more important than the first. Just because you have something in your kit doesn’t necessarily mean you have mastered it for the worst-case scenario.

If you DO have a gas mask in your squad, have you trained on a live-fire range while wearing it? I confess that I haven’t, but that’s a problem I promise will be resolved within the next couple of weeks. Have you done any cardio or other PT with it? Again, I haven’t, but I plan to fix that issue as well.

I have, however, done a lot of Simunitions training with the protective equipment on. To put it mildly, that definitely is a little different than Sims training in a nice, clear, smoke-free area. During one drill in particular, we spent most of the afternoon working through the issues related to smoke — the issues of labored breathing, the issues of sweat-induced fog inside the lens. All of these issues suck, and all of these issues will come into play real-world.

Now I need to take that to the next level, and do some serious PT and firearms training in a gas mask. I suspect that will suck worse.

Police1 Members Speak Out
One of the choices in the abovementioned Police1 poll was to email me directly on the topic of gas masks. One person to do so was a cop named Jim Taylor.

“Our department does issue masks, but we never get any training with them. Lucky for me, I spent eight years in the Army,” Taylor wrote. “I’ve always wondered if other departments received training. From the looks of your poll, most get masks. How about training?”

That’s a fine question Officer Taylor. Let’s let Police1 Members weigh in on that concept in the comments area below.

Doug Wyllie writes police training content on a wide range of topics and trends affecting the law enforcement community. Doug was a co-founder of the Policing Matters podcast and a longtime co-host of the program.