Western Dakota Tech students simulate active shooter scenario
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Western Dakota Tech students experienced one-of-a-kind training Tuesday morning; training that hopefully they will never have to use. The scenario? An active shooter on campus with mass casualties.
A seemingly normal day can turn deadly and WDT students lived the active shooter simulation on their own turf.
“We’ve done several scenarios in the past where there’s a car wreck, a fire, and a chemical exposure,” said Lloyd McNett, simulation director. “In seeing the nationwide epidemic with mass shooters and, granted we’re in rural South Dakota, those types of events we have to have first responders who are prepared for those.”
Fire science, paramedic, law enforcement, nursing, health information management, medical lab, phlebotomy, surgical technology, and dental students were represented in handling different aspects of the scenario.
“They’ve had to get outside their comfort zone where law enforcement has to talk to fire, fire has to talk to EMS and EMS has to talk to the receiving side with nursing and on down the line,” said McNett.
The students were also playing the roles of victims, acting to make the scenario as real as possible.
“The people that needed to assess me needed to know and understand that it’s very emotional and I was going to be frantic,” said Leticia Schnell, LPN student playing a student who jumped out a window and broke her leg. “It was physical but it was also very emotional. I just wanted to make it realistic for them.”
Students and instructors began around 9:30 a.m. when calls rang out in the halls of fake gunshots, followed by a radio response alerting responders to a possible shooting.
Law enforcement students arrived first and took down an acting gunman in a room with multiple injured victims. Soon after, a student ran into the room to alert law enforcement of another possible shooter on the second floor.
Heading up the stairs, students found more acting victims. Inside a classroom immediately next to the stairs, students were fighting back against another shooter before law enforcement could intervene and subdue the situation.
Once the students deemed the situation under control, medical response could move in and treat the acting victims. They were treated indoors and then carried outdoors to be taken by ambulance to the simulated hospital wing of the school.
The school covered their bases in dealing with the many aspects of a traumatic event; from the injuries themselves to the family members of the victims who inquire to nurses, frantically about their loved ones.
“You got a lot of hands on experience that you wouldn’t get from a normal situation,” said Doug Gaston, an LPN student playing a triage nurse. “I’m definitely going to remember how to keep my calm when stuff hits the fan.”
“It’s putting knowledge to experience,” said Tanner Bray, criminal justice student with a law enforcement emphasis. “Keep a clear mind, do what’s right.”
After the exercise students debriefed how they handled the scenario.
“The main experience they get out of it is working together,” said McNett.
The event took about three months to plan, says McNett. Various local EMS services took part in the exercise, offering support to students leading the response. Medical and security forces personnel from Ellsworth Air Force Base were also in attendance in a similar role.