Mass Casualty Drill provides first responders chance to prepare for the worst
The call came in at 1:05 p.m. Wednesday.
A shooter entered the old hospital in Craig on Russell Street and multiple victims were wounded or dead, including a police officer.
“This is only a drill,” said Steve Hilley, Memorial Regional Health’s emergency preparedness coordinator, on a 911 call to Craig dispatch. “I have an active shooter at 785 Russell Street and there are victims involved.”
Wednesday’s mass casualty drill was hosted by MRH in conjunction with multiple state and local police agencies, Craig Fire/Rescue, and ambulance assets in Craig and Moffat County. Moments after Hilley made the 911 call, two police officers arrived on scene within moments and began to ascertain the situation. Almost as soon as they entered, victim-actors could be heard yelling for help as realistic simunition rounds (non-lethal training rounds) were fired inside the old hospital.
After securing the scene as best they could and extricating several uninjured victims, Craig and Moffat County’s special response team arrived within minutes. The multijurisdictional team consists mostly of officers from the Craig Police Department and the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office.
“Both being small departments, we are involved with each other a lot,” said Chip McIntyre, a Moffat County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant, of the special response team. “…They all work together and train together.”
The team helped those who could walk safely get out the building. Then it was time for the team to extricate the wounded while an unknown shooter was still inside.
“We will have an officer go down in this situation,” said CPD Captain Bill Leonard. “That’s one of the things we’re practicing is getting people out of what is still a hot zone… That’s something we’ve never done before.”
Several victim-actors were given realistic bullet wounds using makeup and fake blood, including Councilman Steve Mazzuca, who volunteered to be the wounded police officer. Mazzuca could be seen in a black CPD uniform and a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Several other victims of all ages and sizes also had realistic bullet wounds. Once the team cleared the building enough to reach Mazzucca, several first responders extricated him out of the building and quickly loaded him into a waiting MRH ambulance. Other wounded victim-actors soon followed as MRH EMS personnel worked to identify wounds and stabilize at least two potentially pregnant, female victim-actors.
As the special response team went room by room clearing the old hospital, on top of the hill at MRH, emergency medical personnel and hospital administration were mobilizing their own assets in preparation for arrival of the injured. An announcement could be heard on the hospital’s loud speaker telling visitors and workers a security alert had been issued for an active shooter and the hospital’s command center had been activated on the first floor near the cafeteria. Observers from Rifle, Routt County, and other localities were on hand to watch MRH’s drill.
First responders also plan to send a security alert to parents with school-age kids and provide for area schools to be put on lockdown in the event of a mass shooting.
By 1:35, first responders had confirmed three victim-actor casualties. Their loud orders to a possible suspect could be heard ordering that suspect to put their hands up.
By 4:30, Craig Fire/Rescue had left the scene after extricating all the wounded or dead and the drill was over without any real injuries.
Wednesday’s drill probably won’t be the last inside Craig’s old hospital, which Hilley said could be torn down by summer or fall of next year.
“The plan is for them to train more through the winter and even through the spring,” Hilley said.
McIntyre said they will make good use of the empty space containing multiple rooms adjacent to long hallways.
“This building’s going to be a great resource until they decide to tear it down,” McIntyre said.
Hilley said he hopes they never have to put their training to use in a real shooter scenario.
“I hope it never does happen, but if it does, we’ve got to be prepared for it,” Hilley said.