CLALLAM BAY — It was only a drill, yet the mock shooter exercise at Clallam Bay School provided valuable lessons and training for first responders, organizers said.
More than three dozen actors, including students, manufactured a mass casualty scenario in which an active shooter had opened fire on the West End school on Friday, Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. Randy Pieper said.
About 25 law enforcement personnel, 25 emergency medical technicians and nearly a dozen Clallam Bay Corrections Center officers swarmed the school to stop the simulated threat and to tend those who were pretending to be injured or dead.
“Everybody seemed to learn a lot,” Pieper said in a Saturday interview.
The four-hour drill emphasized a need to improve radio communications for the various law enforcement and emergency medical cervices (EMS) personnel who would respond to a mass casualty like a school shooting or an earthquake and tsunami, Pieper said.
While radio signals from the incident command vehicle were properly relayed to police cruisers, portable radios worn by officers inside the school were unable to transmit to the repeater, he added.
Radio communications are notoriously spotty on the West End.
“One of the positive things was the staff at the school, as well as law enforcement in that area and EMS, all got to work together following the interagency protocol that we’ve been using,” Pieper said.
“It was good training for us all around as to how to work together.”
The drill was conducted by an inter-agency first responder group that includes local school districts and law enforcement agencies, Clallam Bay Corrections Center, Clallam Bay, Joyce and Forks fire districts, Olympic Medical Center, Clallam County emergency management and road departments, critical incident stress management teams, Olympic Ambulance, Forks Community Hospital-Ambulance, U.S. Coast Guard, Clallam County Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Peninsula Communications, Airlift Northwest and the state Department of Transportation, according to a news release.
Participating law enforcement included the Port Angeles, Forks, Sequim, La Push, Elwha and Neah Bay police departments, U.S. Border Patrol, State Patrol, Olympic National Park and the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
Port Angeles Police Cpl. David Dombrowski and Pieper directed the role players.
Some of the actors were playing the part of Good Samaritan while others were pretending to shoot in cold blood.
A single-officer response was practiced in the first two stages of the drill, simulating the likely scenario for a school shooting in Clallam Bay.
The drill was witnessed by school officials from as far as Chehalis and Bremerton, Pieper said.
A law enforcement-specific training was conducted in the adjacent elementary school building.
Mental health counselors were on hand to witness the activity at a mock reunification center for survivors of the simulated shooting.
“Of course, there were some bumps and lumps and a little bit of chaos,” Pieper said of the drill.
“Nothing goes 100 percent according to plan.”
He added: “I think overall it went pretty well for the resources we had to work with.”
Another large scale active shooter-mass casualty drill will take place at Sequim High School in 2019.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].