Ohio dispatchers, first responders learn from each other in countywide MCI drill
Hundreds of first responders participated in several small group and full-scale exercises at Willoughby South High School
By Marah Morrison
WILLOUGHBY, Ohio — The Willoughby-Eastlake City School District, the Willoughby Police Department and the Willoughby Fire Department recently hosted the 2023 Lake County Mass Casualty Incident Drill.
On June 29 at Willoughby South High School, more than 40 instructors representing law enforcement agencies and fire departments from across the county presented three separate sessions, training hundreds of dispatchers, police officers and firefighters from Lake and Geauga counties in the event that one of these critical incidents should occur.
Willoughby Hills Mayor Andy Gardner joined city Fire Chief Robert Gandee as an observer at the drill. The group that Gardner observed included instructors and participants not only from the Willoughby Hills Fire Department, but Grand River, Painesville and Kirtland.
Additionally, Mentor, Mentor-on-the-Lake, Waite Hill, Painesville, Willoughby, Chardon and Bainbridge police departments also were involved as well as the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Lakeland Community College’s Paramedic Training Program.
According to Gardner, safety forces come together once a year to train in various aspects of their responses in the event of a mass casualty incident. This year’s program focused on training to assemble and operate four-person rescue task force teams to evaluate, evacuate and provide medical care to victims as soon as possible after the active threat has ended.
“The drill included both small group instruction and simulated full incidents starting with dispatchers taking the first call and dispatching the necessary agencies,” Gardner said. “Following the dispatch, police offices trained in the assembly of contact teams who then searched the building for threats.”
Following that, participants turned to the focus of the drill, the creation and manning of safety corridors, operations posts and staging areas, the assembly and operation of assessment and extraction teams to assist the victims.
The training officers observed and offered suggestions throughout the small group sessions and simulations, and then assembled the group for after-action debriefings to provide thorough critiques and suggestions. This included feedback from the group dramatizing the roles of victims in the simulations.
“Each time I am fortunate enough to attend one of these events, I come away feeling lucky to live in Lake County,” Gardner said. “It is truly impressive to see the amount of experience and knowledge demonstrated at these events by so many members of our safety forces.”
Gardner said it’s also impressive how safety forces come together to learn from one another and work to continuously improve how they can assist their fellow first responders and residents. Since the tragedy last year in Texas and more recent incidents in other states, both Willoughby Hills Police and Fire have worked to train and prepare for potential incidents and, in particular, their response to an active shooter in schools.
“It is sad that this is necessary and it is my great hope that family members, teachers, school administrators and school resource officers discover and stop potential threats before they occur, but if that is not possible, I want everyone to know that the members of our safety forces in Lake County are prepared to respond and save as many lives as possible,” Gardner said.
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