Preparing for the worst

Local law enforcement responded to a shooting at Pullman Summit Therapy and Health Services Sunday night; the scene they encountered was part of a training exercise organized by Pullman Regional Hospital.

The Pullman and WSU Police departments, including fire and medical services, collaborated with volunteers from the hospital to replicate an active shooter scenario turned lethal.

“When an emergency or a disaster happens, it’s really critical that we know what to do and we know how to respond,” said Alison Weigley, the public information officer for Pullman Regional Hospital. “Unfortunate situations happen, and you need to be prepared for that.”

Weigley said it is crucial to hold such an event at least once a year to advance the level of coordination between law enforcement agencies.

At the site, artificial blood stained the clothes of those shot by the gunman, a role portrayed by Officer Aaron Breshears. Breshears is the lead firearms instructor with the Pullman PD.

Without the practice of reacting to a shooter involved event, law enforcement would have less of a sense of what to expect in a real situation, Breshears said.

“If we are able to test, evaluate and critique ourselves, then we can hopefully be better and be able to respond and provide more service for the community,” he said.

The active shooter drills are designed to provide responding authorities with a diverse perspective on the types of scenarios that could take place, Breshears said.

“Any time you deal with someone who has a mental illness and they decide that it is okay to kill innocent people, it’s really hard to predict what they’re going to do or where they’re going to go,” he said. “We don’t train specifically that we’re going to go to a hospital, we train on a basic principle on how we respond to the incident so that we can apply those principles to different locations.”

As a participant of the active shooter drill, WSU PD intern and senior criminal justice major Chris Hutchinson said he was impressed by the police and medical services’ response to the dramatization.

“This is all set up without their knowledge, so when they get on scene they are in the mindset, but they don’t know what to expect,” he said.

In critical situations like those simulated during the drill, it is law enforcement’s obligation to secure the scene before attending to those in need of medical attention, Hutchinson said.

“If they just immediately start helping someone who is bleeding and some guy walks behind them and shoots, it becomes more of a problem than a solution,” he said.

Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant said despite Pullman’s small size, there remains a possibility for a shooting incident to occur.

“Pullman is certainly not immune from real life,” he said. “In fact we’re probably at a higher risk than a lot of communities just because we have the university here, and we bring people in from all over the world.”

To prevent an active shooter event from happening in Pullman, Tennant emphasized the importance of continuing the training sessions to enhance communication.

“This takes it to the next level and allows us to practice as close to real life as we can so if it ever does happen, it’s not new or unusual to the people who are involved in the exercise,” he said.