SIDNEY — Agencies from around Sidney and Shelby County came together
Saturday morning to assess their collective response to a mass-casualty situation which includes an active shooter.
With real incidents similar to this training exercise becoming more and more prevalent, a state of readiness and level of preparation is vital from emergency services and first responders. Knowing the importance of this training, multiple agencies worked to put on a training exercise designed to give practice to both the police in dealing with the shooter and emergency services in dealing with multiple casualties and wounded civilians.
The events of the morning began with the departments meeting to go over plans for the event. The exercise was held at the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department, with employees acting as the victims of the shooting for the purpose of the exercise.One shooter was assigned, marked with a bright blue vest and given a mock firearm.
The area around the building was cordoned off with caution tape, the road was blocked off, and signs were set up warning drivers away from the street being used. The exercise started with a smoke grenade being set off, signaling the emergency forces to start their rapid response. Police were first on the scene, speeding up to the building with lights flashing and sirens blaring. The cruisers arrived slightly staggered to simulate realistic response time and once all three officers jumped out of their vehicles, the hunt was on. Drawing their weapons, the officers proceeded in the main entrance, all three going in as a unit. Once inside, they began to assess the situation and track down the shooter.
The main objective of any active shooter situation is to arrive as quickly as possible, neutralize and contain the shooter, and get help for the victims within the building. Moments after the police charged in the door, armed SWAT members came on the scene, rifles at the ready, protected with tactical vests and helmets, moving quickly to provide backup. After the shooter was contained, the majority of the civilians inside the building were escorted out into a police van parked outside. Most were able to escape without harm, but some suffered terrible “wounds” and a few were “mowed down” by the shooter. Shortly after the SWAT team entered the building, emergency services were on site.
Medics with helmets and bulletproof vests formed up with the SWAT members and the also recently-arrived State troopers. The armed personnel guarded the medics as they did their work, transporting victims outside to safety before doing any work. After several trips in and out of the building, the final person to leave was the shooter, escorted by multiple armed officers, with his hands behind his back.
As for the “victims” of the shooting, those with no wounds were taken to a nearby command post for their safety located in the fire station next door. All victims suffering from serious wounds were triaged before being transported by ambulance to Wilson Health for immediate care. The triage process was a focus of this training, with multiple victims to categorize in a very high-pressure situation. Quick action was vital here but could only be performed with the prior actions of the police officers and other personnel involved in containing the perpetrator.
The exercise was an important opportunity for all of the agencies involved to assess their response time, the quality of the care given, and the actions of the personnel on the scene.
Sidney Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Lorenzo put it this way, “This type of training is invaluable because it involved multiple agencies coming together. It was nice to see all of them able to work together, and [I] feel certain that we improved today.”
Steven Tostrick, Sidney-Shelby Health Department health commissioner, added he “was glad to help with the exercise and enjoys being able to collaborate with the other agencies when possible.”
Deputy Fire Chief Chad Hollinger said, “The exercise was a test of readiness and preparedness for these kinds of incidents and a good opportunity to work with other agencies.”
Overall opinion of the exercise was positive because it provided a learning opportunity, a means to improve the quality of emergency service in the situation, and a fostered a cooperative spirit between the agencies that serve the citizens of Sidney and Shelby County.
Agencies involved with the scenario were Sidney Police Department, the Shelby Country Sheriff’s Office, Sidney Fire and Rescue, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department, Wilson Health and the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency.
The writer is a summer intern with the Sidney Daily News.