Bismarck Tests Itself in Mass Shooting Simulation - - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Bismarck Tests Itself in Mass Shooting Simulation

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West Dakota SWAT West Dakota SWAT
Bismarck Fire Rescue Bismarck Fire Rescue
St. Alexius Medical Center St. Alexius Medical Center
Shiloh Christian School Shiloh Christian School


If this had been a real emergency, it might not have looked all that different.  The community comes together and role-plays a response as if a major school incident had actually occurred in Bismarck. 

Shootings on school properties go back centuries.  North Dakota had it's own experience years ago, when a teacher was shot and killed in a school near Medora by her former beau.  That was 1935.  Decades later, in 2012, a high school freshman shot himself in front of his classmates near Fargo.  In between, well-publicized mass shootings have occurred at Columbine, Sandy Hook Elementary, and elsewhere.

While local emergency preparedness leaders don't expect it, they're still preparing for the worst.  "The reality is that school shootings are a part of our culture.  The likelihood of a school shooting happening in Bismarck is probably slim, but we also have a responsibility to be prepared, to be ready for our worst case scenario," says Morgan Forness, Superintendent and Principal, Shiloh Christian Schools.

So Shiloh Christian School, Bismarck Police, area hospitals and others come together for a full-scale exercise to see just how well emergency services respond.  "The exercise today is there's been a shooting has occurred at Shiloh High School.  The police have already responded.  They've cornered someone," says Greg Busch, Safety, Security & Emergency Management Director at St. Alexius Medical Center.  "SWAT would, of course, be called, but it would be more for the long-term type scenario, such as a hostage or a barricaded subject," notes Michael McMerty, Commander, West Dakota SWAT. 

Area emergency rooms are also testing their capacity -- from single airlift arrivals to dozens in a steady ambulance stream. "That's why we practice this, so there's no pandemonium, so we know what to do when the situation occurs," says Howard Walth, Trauma Coordinator, St. Alexius Medical Center.  "The city's prepared for that.  The medical centers are committed to that.  The schools are committed to that," notes Busch.

And it shows.  Teams worked together and worked through the scenario.  Things might not have looked much different -- had been an actual emergency.


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