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Paramus police hold emergency response drill at Westfield Garden State Plaza

Westfield Garden State Plaza

NOVEMBER 8, 2015, 3:26 PM    LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2015, 3:26 PM

PARAMUS — Borough police, using a plan that was modified in the aftermath of a shooter entering the Westfield Garden State Plaza here two years ago, held an emergency-response drill at the mall Sunday morning.

The exercise kicked off at 10 a.m., and lasted less than an hour, involving about 100 police officers, said Paramus Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg. The participating police departments included not only Paramus but the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department regional SWAT team as well as ,Maywood,  Hackensack, Rochelle Park, Fair Lawn and Ridgewood.

“It went well,” Ehrenberg said.

The drill was to test how quickly officers were able to respond to the mall in keeping with the plan that’s in place for any police emergency that occurs, including an active-shooter situation, Ehrenberg said. He described it as a “staging drill,” in which police reported to one of the shopping center’s parking lots.

“All we were doing was practicing and exercising our ability to call in mutual-aid towns to the Plaza,” Ehrenberg said. “It was more of a staging drill: how we could get people there and just practice our emergency-response time. … Even though it was at Westfield, the drill is to cover all our shopping-center infrastructure. … It’s a test of our reaction in case of a police emergency at one of our shopping centers.”

Local police have “enhanced” their emergency-response plan from the lessons learned from two incidents at the mall, according to the chief. In November 2013, 20-year-old gunman Richard Shoop entered Garden State Plaza and fired six rounds with a rifle, sending shoppers fleeing. He then killed himself. And in May last year, shoppers panicked and fled in cars and on foot when there were reports of gunfire inside the mall. It turned out that there was a car fire in a parking lot, and reportedly the sounds of the vehicle’s tires popping was mistaken for gunshots.

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