Last December, stranded in the Seattle Airport waiting for a delayed flight, I was absorbed by the local news coverage of a shooting at the Clackamas Mall in Portland. One of the things I noticed in the video from the news helicopters was what appeared to be excellent staging and triage set up by the fire & rescue and police personnel. I wondered if we would be as organized here in Lincoln if something like this happened.
Back in Lincoln, I blogged about an impression from the TV in the airport bar that caught my attention. I made this post at about 5:30 AM on Friday, December 14, 2012. Later that morning, the police chief, fire chief, 911 center manager and I gathered for our weekly joint meeting. One of the discussion items was my desire for our public safety agencies to plan and execute a training exercise this spring focused on an active shooter event. I wanted to both assess and improve our ability to get life-saving care to patients in an emergent incident when seconds count, and when the situation is still somewhat unsettled.
Little did we know as we met that Friday to lay the groundwork for this exercise, that at the same time a mass murder was underway at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. It was a bizarre coincidence. As we left our meeting, I heard the first early reports on the AM radio in my car.
The joint training exercise we first discussed last December was held yesterday at Kloefkorn Elementary School here in Lincoln. It was a full-scale event, with about 50 first responders participating from LPD, LF&R and the 911 Center, along with several volunteers and Lincoln Public Schools personnel, especially the staff at Kloefkorn. We learned a lot from this exercise. The hot wash immediately afterwards was productive, and as the more complete after action review takes place, I have no doubt that what we learned will help us in the future--not only in the event of an unthinkable crisis like this scenario, but also in the smaller emergencies we deal with on a daily basis.
My personal take-away was this: communication is the key. Police and fire personnel have got to work hand-in-glove in uncertain circumstances. Sharing information quickly and thoroughly is vital. We need to do all we can to assure that everyone is aware of the situation on the ground in a dynamic event that is unfolding rapidly, so that we can determine when it is reasonably safe to extricate victims and get medical care to the patients'side.
Thanks to everyone who participated and helped.