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Mass casualty, active shooter training at Clarion

By Staff | Apr 8, 2016

The mission statement of the Jefferson County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) is “Protection of the Jefferson County community and environment form all natural and man-made hazards, including hazardous materials-through planning, preparation and communication between citizens, business, and government.”

In keeping with that mission, the LEPC held a mass casualty and active shooter training workshop at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Shepherdstown, providing critical information to members of county and federal law enforcement agencies, hospital and EMS personnel, school administrators and other community leaders to facilitate a “whole community” approach to preparedness.

Some of the topics included in the all-day event were how law enforcement, EMS and school administrators approach an active shooter/hostage situation, followed by an active shooter demonstration and break out sessions.

Geoff Smith, Medical Section Chief, Advanced Training Center at Customs and Border Protection in Harpers Ferry, said, “We’re seeing more of these types of events (mass casualty) across the country and around the world. Rural communities face different challenges in terms of manpower and resources, and we generally call those (communities) ‘soft targets.’ Jefferson County is taking its first steps toward this level of preparedness now. Loudoun County is moving forward with these types of trainings as well because the need arises to share resources.”

There is no specific number of lives that constitutes a mass casualty event, but rather it is defined as an incident (or multiple incidents) where emergency personnel and equipment are overwhelmed by the number and severity of casualties, rendering them unable to meet the demand for services. A declaration of such an event will bring in surrounding area resources.

The morning presentations were given by tactical medicine and operations specialist, Matt Watson, who spoke to the group about law enforcement and EMS response to an active shooter incident.

“We are here training and talking about what to do to eliminate the threat,” said Watson. “Responding officers are no longer waiting to go in. We’ve learned those hard lessons after the Columbine High School tragedy. We’re going in. For years prior, we set up outside perimeters-a safety zone-and waited for a tactical team to come in. These incidents last 8 minutes on average so not having a team ready to deploy is a real problem.”

He continued by talking about businesses. “A lot of businesses will say that it’s mandatory to have exits and a fire extinguisher for so many square feet, etc. But they don’t necessarily have an active shooter plan. We’re starting to see more and more businesses thinking about what to do if there is an act of violence on premises. We’ve got to come up with plans of action, planning in advance, just like a fire drill. Department of Homeland Security has a video called ‘Run, Hide, Fight,’ which is more or less a fallback response. If someone were to come into where you work and commit an act of violence, what could you do? That video gives good information about awareness.”

For more information about the Jefferson County LEPC, visit www.jeffersonlepc.org.