The Orange-Ulster BOCES campus in Goshen was filled with fire trucks, EMS vehicles, and police cars from several county towns on Sept. 19 to rehearse what might happen in a major domestic terrorist event. Emergency Services Commissioner Walt Koury said the exercise was specifically set up to help emergency medical service personnel learn how to coordinate with law enforcement to reach injured victims.
In cases where there might be a shooter in a school building, law enforcement will lock down the building, but there still may be people injured. “The whole intent of this exercise and why it’s so important is that we now begin to migrate to moving medical teams into the building while law enforcement is still searching the building” Koury said. “They would go in and enter areas of the school that have been secured by law enforcement and treat the victims that are there.”
Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Service Craig Cherry directed the exercise. The training was set up to follow procedures set forth by Homeland Security’s Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP), evaluating EMS First Responder actions to a mass causality incident.
Real Life Situation
The exercise kicked off with the report of a suspicious package found in the school. Soon armed police moved into the school. Some time later military personnel in full combat array arrived in an armored vehicle. Soldiers emerged with heavy duty weaponry and entered the building.
Two policemen emerged carrying an injured person in a sling. They brought the person to the Goshen EMS vehicle where the person was treated. The police accompanied an EMS personnel into the building to look for more injured people.
Koury said EMS tested a tracking program that evaluates the seriousness of each person, to attend to the most critically injured. Evaluators identified by green vests were on board to judge the effectiveness of the program.
Evaluators walked around the test site outside the school building asking questions and observing where improvements could be made. Cherry said the exercise is meant to show where improvements can be made. “Mistakes may be made—[EMS personnel] may slow down to correct themselves.”
Cherry said EMS could not always go in and treat people with serious injuries. The exercise was meant to have medical personnel work in a real time scenario with armed law enforcement and fire departments under unusual circumstances.
“The advantage is that they are able to use that training under an armed conflict situation and to make law enforcement and EMS to understand what that relationship is in responding to a law enforcement event.” He said police and military personnel could then ensure their safety.
Local Support of National Security
Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) is developed to ensure that local communities can support national security measures with good organization. Practice exercises such as that at the BOCES campus improves the procedures of public service agencies, and to share what goes well. This covers several phases of the HSEEP program: near-real time analysis during a real life event, evaluating what could have been done better after the fact, and trend analysis after several exercises have been studied.
“By continually examining the implementation of corrective actions, organizations can identify capability gaps, as well as determine which corrective actions require validation through exercises,” the HSEEP guidelines stated.
Koury recognized the county’s proximity to New York City and training is necessary to handle a domestic terrorism incident. “It’s important that all the emergency services agencies—fire, police, EMS—learn to work collaboratively together. County Executive Steven Neuhaus and Frank Cassanite, Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Medical Services observed as the exercise played out.
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