WFPD Public Information Officer Sam Henley #103 here!
On Tuesday, August 16, 2022, volunteer firefighters of the WFPD participated in the Active Shooter Training Exercise at John Boise Middle School.
Since it would be impossible for me to report on everything, this will be strictly from my point of view as WFPD’s PIO. Certain parts will not be disclosed for security purposes.
The primary responsibilities of fire personnel in an active shooter situation include traffic and crowd control, providing cover to the treatment area using fire trucks, and assisting with medical lifts and evacuation. This is in addition to remaining vigilant for fires that may pop up. If a fire starts, most of the time their primary focus will shift to fighting the fire over anything else.
When the scene was cleared by law enforcement (meaning the perpetrator was down and/or in custody), medics and firefighters quickly entered the building to begin the triaging process. Triaging is the preliminary assessment of survivors or victims in order to determine the urgency of their need for treatment and the nature of treatment required.
The firefighters also brought backboards from the medical trailer to the treatment area so each of the survivors could receive treatment or be prepared for transport in the ambulances.
Staffing the treatment area were the EMTs/Paramedics/nurses from the Warsaw-Lincoln Ambulance District, the Cole Camp Ambulance District, and the Benton County Health Department. The chaos of the treatment area was only a small taste of the chaos that would exist in a real-world incident. The personnel were amazing. One of the paramedics took charge of the treatment area and brought some “order” to the chaos. The personnel set up red, yellow, and green areas so that the survivors could be distributed accordingly – red meaning “immediate” and having the worst wounds, yellow being “delayed”, and green being “minor” or “walking wounded”.
I watched as the firefighters ran from the treatment area back to the building to help medics bring out more “survivors”. Other firefighters stayed in the treatment area to help transfer “survivors” from the sked stretchers to backboards. A sked is a flexible backboard that can be dragged across the ground. Due to its light weight, it is very easy to roll up or unroll and carry into and out of a scene. Firefighters in the treatment area also did other tasks to help the medics handle the influx of “survivors” during the exercise.
As the training exercise completed, I listened to first responders discuss how to adjust their actions and training to what would be needed in a form of mini hot wash. A hot wash is a discussion immediately after an event or incident where responders discuss what happened, what went right, what went wrong, and how to improve their response.
The debrief for the entire exercise happened immediately afterward so that the teachers could hot wash with the first responders. This exercise gave the teachers the opportunity to see a “practice” of how they should react and how first responders will react in an active shooter situation. Ideas for improvement were recommended and discussed. Not every recommendation, though well-meaning, is going to be implemented, but overall, everyone seemed to come out of the exercise with a new level of understanding about why we plan, train, and exercise for incidents beyond our typical day-to-day responses.