Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital transformed into a disaster response scene Thursday as medical personnel, multiple law enforcement agencies and the FBI conducted a statewide exercise for an active shooter event on the hospital’s grounds.
“The exercise that we’re doing today is actually a California statewide exercise so the majority of hospitals in Los Angeles and in California are participating in this,” said Terry Stone, safety officer and emergency manager at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. “It is helping to prepare us for a potential terrorist, active shooter event.”
The statewide exercise involved four major freeway intersections throughout Los Angeles where there were simulated explosions and active shooter events.
Hospitals, like Henry Mayo, took in victims—who were community volunteers with scripted injuries—and processed them in a triage setting as the FBI and three law enforcement agencies, in full protective gear, handled security throughout the location.
“The level of preparation from within law enforcement is we are actively admitting that this is a scenario that we have to prepare for and that unfortunately in today’s world there are new threats that we in law enforcement and in the public have to face,” said Dep. Sheriff Mike Sellers of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “We do these in a stress environment to try to replicate a real world event as much as we can.”
In past exercises the sheriff’s station would practice looking for a suspect, conducting a shelter in place situation for staff or visitors. Thursday’s exercise was focused on providing protection and general safety at the hospital itself so patients could be transported and treated there.
As the disaster exercise continued at Henry Mayo, law enforcement could be seen patrolling the area, monitoring visitors to the campus, communicating with hospital staff and guarding the hospital’s triage area.
In the triage area, victims were separated based on their injuries and were sent to one of four colored stations: green for minor, yellow for delayed, red for immediate or critical and black for expectant or deceased.
Victims were then assessed by doctors who evaluated injuries and described treatments to registered nurses who took notes and sent them to the correct area of the hospital.
Overall, Stone said the exercise was a good lesson for herself and the hospital staff on how to respond to a mass casualty event if it happens in the future.
“This is actually the first time we have had the law enforcement component here and they have been highly responsive and very educational,” she said. “I myself have been doing this for 10 years and I learned a lot today because the horizon is constantly changing. We’re now in the age of terrorism so we need to learn how to be prepared and respond to that.”
Both Sellers and Stone agreed that the best way for both officials and the public to prepare for an active shooter situation is to have a plan with loved ones, family and friends.
“I think the biggest point is having a family plan, having a discussion when going into venues, identifying exits, identifying ways to escape,” Sellers said. “That is today’s real-world experience.”
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