ELLINWOOD — The tones sound. The message follows — "Ellinwood Police Department, Barton County Sheriff, Kansas Highway Patrol, respond to the Ellinwood High School, 210 East 2nd, for a drill. Respond to the high school for an active shoot drill." More tones, another message. "Ellinwood Ambulance Team 1, Team 2, respond to the Ellinwood High School for an active shoot drill. Multiple injuries. Stand by in the area until law enforcement secures the scene."
That’s right scanner junkies — It is a drill! On Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 6:30 p.m. Ellinwood Emergency Medical Services, in conjunction with 22 other agencies, will hold a "School Shooter Drill." The drill will begin with multiple calls to 911 in reference someone shooting in the school. Multiple injuries will be reported. In accordance with protocol, law enforcement will be the first on the scene. EMS will be dispatched, but told to "stand by in the area until scene is secure," which is standard operating procedure.
As the scenario progresses, mutual aid will be requested, and ambulances from every service in the county will be called in to help. All four hospitals in the county will also participate. They will be advised to expect multiple patients and as the scenario progresses, they will receive those patients via ambulance. Most of the hospitals are using this drill as an opportunity to test their disaster plans. "Some are even adding patients not involved in the drill just to truly test their plans," said Debbie Glenn, Ellinwood EMS director.
When asked why did you decide to do a single-shooter scenario, Event Coordinator Brittney Glenn said, "We recognize this is a sensitive topic and we had many long discussions about how this type of drill would be received by the public and the parents of the students at USD 355.
"The truth is, school shootings are a growing epidemic," Glenn said. "We can either practice and be prepared, or bury our heads in the sand, pretending like nothing is wrong, and hope for the best. Obviously we hope this scenario never becomes reality in our community or any other, but should the worst happen, we want to know that we have a workable plan in place and are prepared to deal with the unimaginable.
"That’s why we are taking this opportunity to test our plans and make improvements where necessary," she added.
To date, there are 22 agencies or departments participating in this drill. Those participating include: USD 355, Ellinwood EMS, Ellinwood Police Department, Ellinwood Fire Department, Ellinwood Street Department, Barton County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas Highway Patrol, Claflin Fire-EMS, Hoisington EMS, Hoisington Police Department, Great Bend Fire Department, Great Bend Police Department, Barton County Emergency Management, Ellinwood District Hospital, Clara Barton Hospital, Central Kansas Medical Center, Great Bend Regional Hospital, Burdett EMS, Hutchinson Community College, EagleMed and Barton County Communications.
Sounds exciting, right? Unfortunately, the public will not be allowed to view this drill, at least not from the immediate area. EMS Director Debbie Glenn said, "If this were a real event, the public would not be allowed access, therefore they will not be allowed access during the drill. We are trying to make this as real as possible so that we can determine where the strengths and weaknesses in our plan are.
"Safety is our primary concern and for that reason we have to restrict access to those who are playing an active role in the event," Debbie said. "Ellinwood residents will also be faced with some temporary street closings during the event. Again, this is to restrict access to the scene, as would be done in a real event. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause residents in the area."
The first recorded school shooting in the United States occurred in 1966. Since that time, there have been 90 school shootings and 231 deaths in the US. Thirteen of the 90 shootings did not result in any deaths. The deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history occurred April 16, 2007, when 23-year-old Virginia Tech student Cho Seung-Hui killed 32 people, then himself. Fifteen others were wounded. Prior to that incident, the University of Texas Massacre which occurred in Austin, Texas, Aug. 1, 1966. was the deadliest with 16 fatalities. Closer to home, there was the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., April 20, 1999, where 13 people lost their lives. Kansas has had one school shooting death. It occurred Jan. 21, 1985, at Goddard Middle School. One person died in that incident.