By Max Erikson
Reporter 

Ready for a worst case no one wants

 

April 18, 2018

Max Erikson

ACTIVE SHOOTER READINESS: County and city agencies ran an active-shooter readiness drill Friday, pretending an active shooter was holed up in the county courthouse with mounting casualties. Top: a police officer guards the entrance to the courthouse.

Members of city and county law enforcement agencies, together with personnel of regional and county fire departments and emergency responders, joined together to participate in an Active Shooter Full-Scale Exercise at the Klickitat County Courthouse on April 12, to train for a worst-case scenario: a person attempting a mass shooting.

The exercise was a chance for county employees to practice their Active Threat Plan and for local first responders and hospital staff to practice a real-time coordinated response to a mass-casualty incident.

Agencies that participated included: Goldendale Police Department (GPD), Klickitat County Sheriff's Office (KCSO), Washington State Parks Law Enforcement, Washington State Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement (WDFW), Klickitat County EMS Dist. 1, Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue, Goldendale Fire Department (GFD), and Rural 7.


Director of Emergency Management for Klickitat County Jeff King says that the active shooter scenario was chosen because of similar events that have been occurring across the country and commonly seen in the media today.

"This was a good test of our county's ability to deal with a large, complex emergency," King says. "While we hope that Klickitat County never experiences such an incident, we will use these lessons learned to be better prepared in case a mass-casualty incident occurs."

The exercise started when an actor, posing as an active shooter, discharged blank rounds from a gun in the courthouse. 9-1-1 was called, and police and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) responded. Police officers in tactical gear then entered the building to eliminate the threat. After the active shooter was contained, a Rescue Task Force of medical personnel began to treat and remove the wounded. A triage area was staged away from the building where victims were treated then transported by ambulance to Klickitat Valley Health (KVH). At the emergency room of KVH, doctors and nurses simulated life-saving care to the most critically injured, while other hospital staff played supporting roles.


Goldendale Chief of Police Reggie Bartkowski was the Incident Commander for the exercise. He was in charge of coordinating the response by police officers for the active shooter exercise. The Incident Commander is the law enforcement officer who is either the first one on the scene or the most qualified to command the situation. That leadership position changes if higher ranking or more experience personnel arrive on scene.

"This was the first time that we had a full-scale response with all law enforcement and Fire and Rescue working together. It was a challenge getting everybody on the same page, but everybody deserves a lot of credit for how well it went," Bartkowski says. "We learned some good lessons from this exercise that will make us better prepared if anything like this ever happens. We hope that it never will."


Bartkowski says that one of those lessons was the need for officers to use earpieces in their communication radios. He says the feedback and background noise made it hard to give or receive information.

"All our officers will now be using earpieces, and that allows us to communicate better and to keep the radios silent when approaching a suspect," Bartkowski says.

Some areas that Bartkowski would like to see improvement in is the relaying of real-time information of what is happening at each moment. That would assist the Incident Commander in making informed decisions about the next action to be taken and how much police or medical assistance is required as the situation unfolds, with the goal of having an even quicker response.

"Until you train for an incident like this, you don't know what to do," Bartkowski says. "These trainings are all about lessons learned, and it showed us some areas we can work on."

A review of the training is scheduled in the future and will be based on the feedback of participants. The review will determine if adjustments need to be made to agency policies, training, response tactics, and communication practices to strengthen the response to a mass-casualty incident.

Max Erikson

EMT personnel carry out one of the "wounded."

 

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