In light of recent and past mass shootings, the City of Wrangell is planning what to do in case the worse were to happen. And today, public departments and SEARHC are conducting an active shooter drill at the medical clinic. This is the first drill of its kind in Wrangell, and it’s just one step in a long process to get a whole city prepared.
Many conversations led up to this proactive effort. Folks expressed their concerns at city assembly and school board meetings.
“Nobody wants to believe that this is capable of happening in your community, but it’s happening everywhere so we need to be prepared,” said City Manager Lisa Von Bargen.
Earlier this year, the city held ALICE trainings for all public employees. The program sits folks down to go over what to do if a gunman enters your workplace. The basics are to get out of dodge and if you’re cornered, fight.
But Thursday’s drill is something totally different.
“The drill is actually putting into play a realistic situation,” Von Bargen explains.
I’m envisioning a huge production. And city officials tell me that’s exactly what it is.
Mayor Steve Prysunka facilitated this drill. And he says it’s not just about clinic employees protecting themselves. It’s about how law enforcement and medical providers respond to something like they’ve never seen before.
“Police will respond initially and go in and make sure that threat has been removed. Then EMS will come in after that and package up and start treating the patients. And then they will be transported to Wrangell Medical Center who will go though all the things they do right up to arranging for the medevac,” he said.
And this cross-departmental training is the first of its kind in Wrangell. Large scale drills have been performed at the airport with the help of Wrangell Police Department. This drill includes EMS, WMC, and SEARHC, a private but large stakeholder in the community.
Prysunka says the drill should last three hours and involve over 50 people. It’s planned out, and those involved have had plenty of training in anticipation for this.
It’s not going to go perfectly, but it’s to test run every what-if that could happen in a hostile situation.
And how that all goes will be just the beginning of building on a larger and evolving protocol. Other components down the road will include how to best inform the public of this kind of event (including rolling out a local emergency alert service to people’s cellphones), how to block off affected areas, and providing mental health services.