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This week, Paris played host to the Northeast Texas Emergency Management and Healthcare Conference. Beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday and finishing on Wednesday afternoon, the conference included several classes and presentations, addressing topics such as mass fatality, trauma basics and disaster deployments.
The conclusion of the conference was marked with an emergency preparedness exercise. Held at the Love Civic Center, it lasted from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and focused on key responder coordination and integration of assets necessary to protect the public in the event of a catastrophic incident. Paris Police Chief Bob Hundley observed the event. According to him, Wednesday’s scenario, while not the first of its kind, was unique in its scale.
“The last drill with actual patients transported had been held a number of years ago,” Hundley said. “There have been other drills over the years, but this one is by far the most far reaching we have been involved in.”
The scenario for the exercise was as follows: While in transport to the Northeast Texas Emergency Preparedness and Healthcare Conference, a bus full of nursing students and instructors from PJC was taken hostage by a mentally unstable male student. The student pulled out a gun, causing the bus driver to jerk and the bus to swerve. A bullet hit the driver, causing the driver to lose control of the bus. The result is a broadside collision with an oncoming car, with approximately 25 students, 2-3 instructors, and several law enforcement personnel impacted as victims.
The exercise picked up in the aftermath of the accident. Emergency officials (Paris FD, EMS, SWAT, Paris PD and Emergency Management officials) were quick to respond. A Paris PD officer parked nearby, gun at the ready. The air filled with smoke as SWAT entered the bus, responding quickly and efficiently.
“The officers who responded to the initial call made the correct decision in reacting to the gunman,” Hundley said. “Once the SWAT team was called in, they performed a very good entry to the bus and neutralized the ‘shooter’ in short order.”
After the removal of the shooter, the victims lay out on the ground beside the bus as EMS reached the scene. For several minutes, sirens resonated as emergency response units from various hospitals arrived.
The regional Mobile Medical Unit was present to provide care to the victims. After a full assessment of their injuries, patients were transferred by ground or air either to Paris Regional Medical Center, East Texas Medical Center-Clarksville or Hopkins County Memorial Hospital.
The purpose of this exercise was to allow participants to evaluate the performance of current emergency capabilities for an incident impacting the nine-county area. Sponsors included Northeast Texas Regional Advisory Council (NETRAC), Ark-Tex Council of Governments (ATCOG), the Emergency Medical Task Force – 4 (EMTF-4) and Trauma Service Area “G” (the Tyler region).
By Courtney McNeal, eParisExtra