Shooter training brings together law enforcement, EMS

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Audrey Jones of Ferdinand, a student in the EMT class at Vincennes University Jasper, portrays an unconscious patient who sustained a closed-head injury as first responders transfer her to a spinal board during an active shooter training at Memorial Hospital Lodge in Jasper on Monday.


JASPER — Dispatch delivered the grim news, the news no Dubois County resident ever wants to hear, over scanner frequencies on Monday evening.

It wasn’t supposed to happen here. Yet, there they lay, 25 victims injured or deceased at a satellite Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center facility on Jasper’s south side. Casualties of a mass shooter.

Well, kind of.

It’s important to note that these “victims” were never actually in any danger. It was only a drill: No rounds were fired at the role-playing actors, and none of their injuries were real. Their gashes — though realistic — were painted on with makeup; their bullet wounds craftily molded on with putty. The county’s dispatch service even explicitly broadcast that the exercise was a test.

It served as a practice activity that local leadership believes could prepare responders for future emergencies.

“Because you never know,” said Suzan Henke, director of ambulance services at Memorial and event organizer, when asked why the exercise was valuable. “We think it’s never gonna happen here, but it could someday. And we want to be prepared.”

Pike Central High School senior Dalton Williams portrays  the shooter during an active shooter training at Memorial Hospital Lodge in Jasper on Monday.

This gathering was unique because of the variety of agencies that participated. Representatives from Memorial Hospital’s emergency medical services, Dubois County Emergency Management, the Jasper Volunteer Fire Department, Jasper Police Department and Dubois County Sheriff’s Office were all involved. It took place at the Memorial Hospital Lodge on South Newton Street.

“I think our biggest goal is to learn from each other,” Henke said, explaining that the exercise served to highlight the expectations of each agency and how they can help each other out in dangerous situations.

She estimated that close to 100 people participated in the drill. Nearly all of those pretending to be injured were students who are enrolled in area medical classes.

One of them was Audrey Jones, a student in the EMT class at Vincennes University Jasper. She played the part of an unconscious patient who sustained a closed-head injury from falling down a small staircase.

Another of the actors was Dalton Williams, a Pike Central High School senior who is pursuing an EMT certification and one day hopes to be a doctor. Per his script, he was the mass shooter, and he was shot and detained by another man with a gun before law enforcement arrived on the scene.

“I think it’s important so that if this actually happens, that EMTs and police officers are prepared to handle it in different situations,” Dalton said of the drill’s purpose.

Barry Dunlop of Jasper portrays a wounded victim during an active shooter training at Memorial Hospital Lodge in Jasper on Monday. Dunlop, a Jasper Volunteer Fire Department member, is currently participating in a first responder training course. "It's something new to learn and you never know when you'll need that training," he said.

Upon arriving without the use of sirens about 10 minutes after the dispatch message was sent out, a group of four on-duty Jasper police officers de-loaded their guns for safety purposes and cleared the area before assessing injuries and locating the threat at hand. After that threat was secured, medical and fire personnel came into the large, barn-like room to provide care.

“Overall, it was a success,” said JPD Sgt. Adam Bower. “We take away some parts that we need to work on and can grow from, but like I said earlier, this is where we want to find those parts that we need to maybe address a little bit.”

Mike Ciraulo, the interim ambulance training specialist at Memorial, spoke of the educational value it had for the students in attendance after the drill ended and participants dispersed to eat pizza and chat.

“It’s good for them,” he said. “Really good for the students, so they see what we do. They’re learning our processes, but to actually see it from the patient’s perspective helps a lot.”

Henke said “it’s a success when we learn something,” and that was the case Monday.

“Did we make mistakes?” she asked. “Absolutely. But this is the time to make those mistakes, so that when we have a real situation, we don’t make those mistakes.”

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