Full-scale exercise considers ‘what if’

Posted October 8, 2013 at 6:17 pm

On Thursday, Sept. 26, Hand County conducted its full-scale exercise in the Hand County Courthouse. The full-scale exercise is a requirement of the State and Local Agreement, Office of Emergency Management, in order to receive federal funding. The exercise should simulate an episode that actually could happen, and responders are to react as they would if the exercise was an authentic event.

The exercise was an “active shooter”-type exercise that involved three neighboring law enforcement officials playing the bad guys. They were in the courtroom for a fake trial and local youth from the high school were present to be actors.

They were moulaged up with simulated injuries ranging from gunshots to broken bones to being in shock. The “victims” were scattered throughout the courthouse in various areas to represent their trying to escape when the shooting broke out.

The staff of the courthouse exercised their emergency plan that they had in place if such an event were to occur, and many were also injured. Outside the courthouse, the streets were shut down and ambulance and fire department personnel were put on stand-by to respond once the scene was determined to be secure.

Once the building was deemed secure by law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel entered the building to begin to triage patients, and transport them to the hospital. The hospital exercised their protocol if such an event were to occur by locking down portions of the building to keep bad guys fleeing the scene from entering the building, and to also keep from over filling the hospital with patrons so that they could care for the patients coming in.

The exercise itself went well, and a number of new EMTs, law enforcement, and fire personnel had their first experiences with full-scale exercises.

The purpose of these exercises is to give responders a scenario as close to realistic as possible and see how well they perform. After the exercise, the responders met at the fire hall to discuss the exercise and the learning opportunities there were from the exercise.

We were able to bring in folks from neighboring agencies and experienced staff from our departments to help the responders through the event. Staff was present from the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management and Incident Management Assistance Teams to be evaluators and help facilitate the exercise to ensure that it ran smoothly.

Emergency Management will be meeting with the various response entities to discuss their plans following the exercise and how we can better respond to such an incident.

The true definition of success and failure is whether you learn from the exercise and implement plans to better respond to incidents in the future, so the goal is for each department to come up with plans to respond to such an incident and to alleviate some of the mistakes or issues that were brought to light during the exercise.

Appreciation to our neighboring agencies, our responders, volunteers, staff, and residents of Miller, for allowing us to conduct the exercise at the courthouse.