Fire, Police Hold Mass Casualty Exercise

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Mesquite’s new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) had most of the necessary people to manage a mass casualty or high impact event on Feb. 17. Forefront, City Liaison Officer Aaron Baker, who was acting Public Information Officer for the event, gets vital information from Spencer Lewis, who was the training facilitator. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

Mesquite’s new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) had most of the necessary people to manage a mass casualty or high impact event on Feb. 17. Forefront, City Liaison Officer Aaron Baker, who was acting Public Information Officer for the event, gets vital information from Spencer Lewis, who was the training facilitator. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

The Mesquite Fire and Rescue Department (MFRD) and Mesquite Police Department (MPD) held their first full scale mass casualty training exercise in four years on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

The scenario was a teen music concert gone terribly wrong when a drug dealer unleashed a bad batch of drugs. Ten teenagers overdosed on the drugs requiring emergency assistance and evacuation.

One of the main focuses of the exercise was the new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) established in city hall and reported on by Mesquite Local News in November 2015.

Even with two months of planning by departments and outside agencies, the MFD, MPD, city leaders, Mesa View Regional Hospital (MVRH) and even the media who camped out in the EOC learned a great deal.

The paramedics who arrived on scene first herded the teens from the event center and evaluated them outside. Several kids fell to the ground and were immediately evacuated to the hospital in ambulances. The remaining kids were triaged into treatment groups.

At the EOC, Fire Fighter Spencer Lewis, who was the event coordinator, briefed everyone on the situation. It was Lewis’ job to make sure that all departments were on the same page and had the same information to manage the situation.

As he was receiving information from MFR and MPD on scene, the various people in the EOC had to determine what the next steps would be, who would go where, or do what, and how.

Mesquite Fire and Rescue first responders triaged and treated patients at a mass casualty training exercise on Feb. 17. MFRD, Mesquite Police Department, city leaders, Mesa View regional Hospital and media took part in the exercise. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

Mesquite Fire and Rescue first responders triaged and treated patients at a mass casualty training exercise on Feb. 17. MFRD, Mesquite Police Department, city leaders, Mesa View regional Hospital and media took part in the exercise. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

Mesa View Regional Hospital also participated in the training exercise to determine the effect of mass casualty victims on emergency room staffing. Chief Nursing Officer Nancy Seck communicated instructions and directions between the EOC, the paramedics on scene and the hospital. With ten patients coming in, the staff worked quickly to theoretically fly three patients to other hospitals with help from Chris Stachyra of Air Methods. The remaining seven patients were treated locally according to the training scenario.

Bud Marshall, Southern Nevada Field Regional Supervisor in Preparedness for the Department of Emergency Management was observing the exercise in the EOC. He knows what it takes to respond to emergencies on all levels. “There is always room for improvement,” he said. “There’s always something.”

Soon the attention turned from the scene of the crime to a SWAT police training exercise where the alleged drug dealer had barricaded himself in a nearby location.

Initial response teams arrived at the barricaded scene where the perpetrator fired off several shots at the officers. That resulted in the police supervisors evaluating the need for a SWAT team.

MPD Police Deputy Chief Scott Taylor told the Mesquite Local News that certain criteria are evaluated before a SWAT team is activated. “We don’t call out SWAT just any time we want. We determine certain aspects of the scene, measuring the danger to our officers and the public. We then decide on a numerical scale if SWAT is needed,” Taylor said.

“Our SWAT team trains monthly for different situations and scenarios,” MPD Chief Troy Tanner said. “These guys are constantly training together so they know exactly what each team member is going to do in a dangerous situation.”

MPD Detective Sergeant John Woods, SWAT team leader led the officers into the barricade while a sniper positioned himself in the dusty hills surrounding the scene. Following protocols, the officers soon ended the standoff with the suspect and ended the hours-long training exercise.

Thanks in part to today’s technology, communications between on-scene personnel, the EOC and the hospital worked smoothly albeit slow at times. However, the effectiveness of having a central control area where all information was disseminated at once was highly effective. The training worked well and showed what needs improvement and tweaking.

Mesquite Police Department SWAT team participated in a mass casualty training exercise on Feb. 17 that tested capabilities of the city’s new Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

Mesquite Police Department SWAT team participated in a mass casualty training exercise on Feb. 17 that tested capabilities of the city’s new Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

Perhaps the biggest learning curve was for Aaron Baker, City of Mesquite Liaison Officer and acting Public Information Officer. He did well considering the hard task of knowing what information could be sent out via the media or when the media was sending unconfirmed information to him for verification. It’s a hard spot to be in but Baker feels he’ll be able to handle it more effectively now that he’s had a taste of what to expect.

The city plans to conduct these types of training exercises at least twice a year.

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