Area Emergency Agencies Participate in Mass Casualty Exercise

It all starts with just a phone call. Someone reports hearing shots fired in a school, suddenly chaos. It's a scene that's become all too familiar in society today, making training an absolute necessity for local law enforcement and emergency personnel.

Twenty-three different local agencies converged on Wausau West High School Friday to participate in mass casualty training, an exercise used to prepare law enforcement in case of an active shooter.

The simulation started with a call to dispatch. Someone in the school reporting having heard shots fired followed by screams. When emergency crews arrived on scene, law enforcement was the first inside, clearing the area for emergency responders. Police and Sheriff's Deputies apprehended the pretend shooter within minutes, as emergency crews attended to the mock wounded. The goal of the training, learning how to work together in an emergency.

Training exercises like this one are typically done once a year and centered around various scenarios. This year, first responders chose to train for an active shooter situation because of the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

"We've changed a lot of the procedures and the way that we normally would have done things because of the world that we're living in," Rib Mountain Fire Lt. Bert Nitzke tells NewsChannel 7 adding,"We've changed a lot of the different techniques for how we enter into a scene, how we look for things, and so it's helping us. This training is helping improve those new policies and procedures that we're putting in place."

Friday's training was also a chance for school staff to evaluate their emergency procedures. Their key role, support. Support for emergency crews, students and families.

"One of the things that we really want to look at is how we involve the parents in the reunification in the event that something happens to get them back with their kids as quickly as possible," Wausau West High School Assistant Principal Cale Bushman explains. "It was a sick feeling knowing that even in a drill situation you have students who are hurt inside the building and feeling somewhat helpless at times to deal with them. "

Lt. Nitzke says he's pleased with how the agencies responded and were able to work together. Like anything, he admits there is room for improvement. But he's confident they're prepared if something like this ever happens here.

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