By Brandi Makuski
When local police, fire and EMT crews arrived at the UW-Stevens Point campus for Friday’s emergency drill, the previous day’s campus shooting at UCLA was on everyone’s minds.
“There’s always something,” said Capt. J.B. Moody of the Stevens Point Fire Department. “We’ve been fortunate here, that we haven’t seen that kind of violent incident on campus, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.”
The June 3 and 4 drill presented two emergency situations: one involving an active shooter on campus, and another was a simulated chemical release, both designed to practice how local and state emergency crews would work together in a large-scale disaster.
“You can never practice enough for a disaster situation,” Moody said. “It’s not a question of if, but when, something like this happens. It doesn’t matter if it happens on campus, or at a school, or somewhere else in a public setting; this kind of training will help us be prepared.”
The exercise was a massive one, including police, fire and EMS crews from Stevens Point, Plover, Wapuaca and other municipalities, along with county departments, Ministry St. Michael’s Hospital, UW-Stevens Point, Wisconsin State Patrol and the United States Army Reserve.
“This is really an effort for us to practice our response to major events,” said Jeff Karcher, director of risk management at UW-Stevens Point. “We have some this kind of training before, and we will again, probably once a year or so.”
Karcher said the planning for the drill began last December and included several table-top exercises before the live-action exercise was initiated Friday morning.
Dozens of citizens volunteered to participate as victims in the weekend drill. The “victims” were tagged as either being injured or dead so rescue teams could evacuate and triage as though the situation were real.
Dealing with victims in a situation where the scene is still unfolding is one local police and EMT crews have been training on for more than a year. About 18 months ago, local law enforcement and medical crews created a local Rescue Task Force (RFT), which puts emergency medical techs into the thick of an active situation, right behind law enforcement, as opposed to waiting for a scene to be cleared by police and deputies before they tend to the wounded.
“That kind of training is put to use in this type of training situation,” Moody said. “In an actual live-shooter, or other emergency situation this is how we’d respond. There’s a lot of agencies that Stevens Point Fire Department doesn’t always see on a day-to-day basis, and getting to know what they expect from us and what we expect from them helps when this happens.”