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Multi-agency drill stages response to fake school shooting

2010-10-17T20:12:00Z 2010-10-18T10:10:55Z Multi-agency drill stages response to fake school shootingBy DAVID TAUBE dtaube@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
October 17, 2010 8:12 pm  • 

QUEENSBURY -- Gunshot wounds sent nearly a dozen students at the Queensbury school district to the hospital Sunday, all fake injuries during a practice emergency preparedness exercise.

The event involved between 80 and 100 officials to respond to two shooters who activated a fire alarm to draw students into hallways. Police and an Emergency Response Team swept through the building for the perpetrators, ambulances transported volunteer victims to the hospital, and officials debriefed the scenario afterwards. Law enforcement, emergency medical squads and hospital staff participated in the event at the William H. Barton Intermediate School and Glens Falls Hospital, which was a first in some respects for area officials.

"We’ve never done a shooter drill like this," said Jim Cross, captain of the West Glens Falls Emergency Squad. "This was all new to us."

Fire alarms sounded at 9:31 a.m., drawing closed doors. Three Warren County sheriff’s officers and two state troopers conducted the first search, where they encountered students in a hallway and instructed them to sit down. They reached a second floor on a north wing of the school and found several bodies laying across the hallway.

Police searched classrooms, bathrooms and even an elevator, pressing their backs against walls before entering rooms and calling out "clear."

A cafeteria was secured as a transfer point for victims with casualties, and a triage site for patient evaluation was at a nearby school.

About 55 students participating in the exercise later arrived there. Victims in critical condition were transported by six-wheel all-terrain vehicles to ambulances at a neighboring school on the district’s Aviation Road campus.

Alexander Holl, a fifth-grader at the intermediate school, played the role of a gunshot victim. He had a chest wound where the "bullet" entered, and an exit wound in his back.

His mother, Heather Holl, had a pillow over her belly to suggest she was in the third trimester of a pregnancy. She was also hit by gunshot in her shoulder, and sat next to her daughter, a third-grade victim.

She said her son was happy to participate in the drill.

"He’s excited," she said as her son was transported. "He didn’t even sleep last night."

Emergency medical technician Ted Conant created the fake injuries with make-up, a process dubbed "moulage." He said he didn’t try to overdo the injuries.

"You can get the message across with a minimum," said Conant, who assists with Hague, Warrensburg and Richmond, Vt., volunteer emergency medical squads. "And the purpose of this is a learning experience, not 100 percent realism."

He praised the training because of its multi-agency effort, and noted that injuries can have serious psychological effects at first.

A medical transport helicopter also landed on school grounds. Had the situation been real, emergency personnel would have airlifted two of the victims to Albany Medical Center. Officials would also avoid overwhelming one hospital with patients, rather sending victims to multiple sites, said Cross, of the West Glens Falls Emergency Squad.

Glens Falls Hospital received patients at its Emergency Care Center.

Laura Stebbins, the hospital’s director of emergency preparedness and patient safety, said responses for mass casualties can include hundreds of staff from the hospital. Glens Falls Hospital also holds monthly discussions about various scenarios.

After the exercise, a debriefing included responses from officials. Some officials, including staff from State Police and the state Health Department, had been designated as evaluators. Media were not permitted to attend the debriefing, according to Warren County Office of Emergency Services Director Brian LaFlure.

Officials said the exercise, which took more than three months of planning, went well, but had limitations and room for improvement.

One unknown variable the scenario did not address was how emergency responders would handle parents of students arriving at the school, officials said. In addition, a command center radio malfunctioned, prompting officials to use a vehicle’s radio.

"You can practice all day long ... but when this goes to a high school, everything changes," Cross said.

Emergency responders also decided during the event to relocate a triage site out of the cafeteria so that evaluations and treatments wouldn’t be done in a building with an active shooter, Cross said.

A report by the county is planned.

Sheriff Nathan "Bud" York said he would like to repeat the exercise with other school districts twice each year.

Participants included staff from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, State Police, five fire departments led by Queensbury Central Volunteer Fire Co., eight ambulance corps. led by West Glens Falls Emergency Squad, the Emergency Management Office, Queensbury Union Free School District, state and Homeland Security evaluators, the state Mental Health Office, Glens Falls Police Department, and the American Red Cross.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. GFguy
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    GFguy - October 18, 2010 7:09 pm
    Not only was the drill important for Police, Fire and E.M.S. to experience, it was also important for the students to experience this as well. These student will now know what to expect of Law Enforcement, Fire and EMS officials if (god forbid) a situation like this occurs. The blood and fake wounds was vital to this situation, not only to simulate the severity of a gun shot wound but also to better help Law Enforcement, Fire and E.M.S. official's be prepared for what they will encounter in this type of situation. The psychological effects that these types of situations bear is emmense. If one can better prepare themselves and others by simulating the real thing, then why not? But then again many of you will never have to deal with tragedies like this, so why would you care?
  2. toast
    Report Abuse
    toast - October 18, 2010 4:57 pm
    Kids used to get excited for fire drills too (unless it was pouring or the middle of winter) - anything to interrupt normal class time excites kids. The police used to come to my school and have us test drive while wearing 'beer goggles' and that was both fun and an educational experience. I'd rather they be excited rather than afraid, if they can be less anxious during a drill, then they're probably less likely to panic during the real thing and will have a better chance of getting out alive.
  3. RoYaChOwDeR
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    RoYaChOwDeR - October 18, 2010 3:27 pm
    beenthroughtherealthing, I am sorry that you have had to live through an experience like this but this is how you train for a critical incident, by making it as real as possible. And not to make light of your experience, but you cannot compare one situation to another because they each have their own factors and variables that influence the events, responses and outcomes of situations like these. If anything the men, women and volunteers who put their time and effort into this drill should be thanked for wanting to be a proactive part of becoming a solution instead of being a community where tragedy strikes and everyone is wondering, why weren't we ready for this?
  4. citydweller
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    citydweller - October 18, 2010 2:46 pm
    I think the drill was probably a usefull excercise for law enforcement. I am however concerned over the sensational photos of wounded students, complete with bloody handprints on the wall, that the Post Star chose to publish. Heaven forbid that there are any disturbed kids out there that might be inspired by such images. Are papers that hard to sell or was an editor asleep at the switch?
  5. RoYaChOwDeR
    Report Abuse
    RoYaChOwDeR - October 18, 2010 11:02 am
    As far as laying out the details, I don't think it helped any would be bad guys out there. Trust me, if someone is set on carrying out a plan similar in nature, the information to assist them with carrying out the plan with maximum efficiency is readily available to anyone with a computer and imagination. Check it out for yourself, there are forums, blogs and other outlets available with just the click of a mouse. It is nice though to see that our community is becoming more proactive in addressing these issues as opposed to playing a if it happens then we will deal with it game.
  6. beenthroughtherealthing
    Report Abuse
    beenthroughtherealthing - October 18, 2010 10:50 am
    I am disgusted in our local Police and Queensbury School District! They allowed a lockdown drill with fake blood on students and police officers were allowed to walk the halls with guns drawn. The kids wearing fake blood and acting injured thought it was "Cool" and they were so excited for the event, that they couldn't sleep the night before the drill. I have been through REAL lockdowns with injuries and this is not the way to prep for them!!! And believe me, there is NOTHING "Cool" about them!
  7. areyoukidding
    Report Abuse
    areyoukidding - October 18, 2010 7:22 am
    I'm not so sure laying out the details of how the "shooter" carried out his "plan" was a good idea in the newspaper! Maybe streamlining the exercise would have sufficed. You just handed out the tools for a real situation! The good thing is that we now know the Sheriff has gotten his team some practice dealing with this kind of situation.

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