“It was difficult to sit through, but you could hear a pin drop in that room,” remarked Chief AnneMarie Ricco of the Cape May County Office of Emergency Management. Maybe not a comment often heard during most training sessions, but she was speaking about this year’s annual in-service training requirement her dispatchers attended during the first two weeks of March.
Chief Ricco is responsible for arranging this required training, setting up the curriculum and obtaining the presenters. Her plans are approved by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services and she works with the Cape May County Public Safety Training Academy to register the dispatchers and get it set up.
For this year’s training, Chief Ricco contracted John Zamrock, from Awareness Protective Consultants, who provided a course titled “The Telecommunications Operator Role in Active Shooter Events.” Mr. Zamrock drew heavily on the events of the Columbine shooting and provided videos and the recordings of the 911 calls that day. He stressed the importance of having effective emergency management plans and how to execute them. In designing this year’s training program, Chief Ricco wanted the second half of the program to show a different perspective of an active shooter emergency, yet meet the requirements for a medical component of the training.
Soon she realized she had the perfect presenter for this training right in her midst since last summer. Since Cape May County’s implementation last year of their InfoShare™ CAD at the Office of Emergency Management and the RMS at the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office, CSI Executive VP Rich Norcross has made frequent visits to the agency.
Chief Ricco knew Rich and she knew of the active shooter incident that happened in Haddon Heights back in 1995, but she didn’t put the two together. She didn’t realize that Rich was the police officer shot and critically wounded in that incident and that his younger brother, John, also a police officer ,was killed, along with Camden County Investigator Jack McLaughlin.
When someone pointed out that connection to her, she decided to talk to Rich about fulfilling her agency’s training requirements. Rich Norcross frequently presents his story of that tragic incident to law enforcement agencies, especially in training environments. While he claims it is often therapeutic for him, his presentations go a long way in helping to prepare others and teach them how to react if they find themselves in a similar situation.
Norcross had an upcoming engagement to address DELTA (Development, Education, and Leadership Training Academy) at the Ocean County Police Academy, as part of a team of presenters that included the New Jersey State Police, the NJ Department of Criminal Justice, the Ocean, Somerset, Salem, Hudson and Monmouth County Prosecutors’ Offices and others. Rich’s topic was Concerns of Police Survivors. He invited Ricco to attend.
She recalls it was a gripping presentation and she realized it would be just the perfect complement to Zamrock’s training, which would focus on handling the emergency from behind the console and on the other side of the phone line from a frantic caller.
Rich would be able to show them the emergency from the perspective of the police officers and the medical responders racing to the scene of an active shooter incident. “I thought it would be very valuable for them to understand what’s happening on that side of the call,” she says.
And so her plans were submitted to the State, approved and scheduled for early March. Zamrock and Norcross came on site, each presenting for four hours a day, satisfying the state requirements for annual in-service training. All dispatchers attended to maintain their certifications. While Zamrock reinforced their skills in their roles as dispatchers, they also got a taste of what it’s like for others involved in emergency response. “He is an amazing speaker,” Ricco says of how Norcross unravels the story of that tragic day.
“He is full of facts and speaks bluntly; but there is no way else to tell this story.” CSI was happy to loan out our Executive VP for Cape May’s annual training. We support our customers any way we can, and we admire Rich Norcross for turning a personal tragedy into a way to help others.