Law enforcement and other emergency officials joined forces May 25 at the University of Tennessee at Martin for an active-shooter training exercise in the Johnson EPS Building. Located next to the Paul Meek Library on Mt. Pelia Road, the building became the scene for three active shooter scenarios designed to stop the threat and overload local emergency systems.
Response teams encountered several aspects of an active shooter event, including sounding fire alarms, smoke-filled hallways, securing multiple floors and the urgency to assist volunteer “victims” and move them from the building to safety. The “injured victims” were then transported by ambulance to West Tennessee Healthcare Rehabilitation Hospital Cane Creek and West Tennessee Healthcare Volunteer Hospital for the second phase of the training, which concluded with a debriefing for participants.
The Weakley County Emergency Management Agency Facebook page described the event as “an intense, immersive experience for our responders.” Ray Wiggington, director of Weakley County Emergency Management Agency, said the entire exercise was created to be as realistic as possible.
“So, what we wanted to accomplish with this is, first and foremost, to familiarize our responders with this type of scenario and the process and procedures that go into responding to an active shooter event and then the recovery from an active shooter event,” Wiggington said. “The secondary takeaway from this is going to be transporting to the hospital and having the hospital be able to take care of a patient surge.”
Although this level of patient surge rarely happens, Wiggington said “any time we can get as close to a real-world scenario as we can to get a patient surge into that hospital, where we can actually overload their systems, where we overflow to our other participating hospitals, is going to be just an amazing experience for them (the responders).”
Charlie Jahr, the university’s operations and training commander in the Department of Public Safety, said active shooter events are realistic threats because of UT Martin’s open campus and the large immediate population. For these reasons, the university welcomed the training opportunity.
“We’ve got a lot of good local resources (in the area), and this is a good way to get them all together in one place,” Jahr said. “A lot of these agencies have never trained on our campus, so it gets them a little more familiar with it (the campus), and it just lets us see what we need to work on and what we did right and what we did wrong and where we can improve.”
Other training participants included the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Martin Police Department, City of Martin Fire/Rescue/EMS Department, Weakley County Ambulance Service, Weakley County Sheriff’s Department, AHC VanAyer and Unity Psychiatric Care.
For information, contact Ray Wiggington, Weakley County EMA, 731-364-2647, or Charlie Jahr, UT Martin Department of Public Safety, 731-881-7777. Follow the Weakley County EMA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WeakleyCoEMA.