Mass casualty event a training exercise for health care, police, fire students

MCC health care students attend to a “patient” during the April 13 simulated mass casualty exercise. (Photo by Jordan Williams/MCC)

“As you’ve figured out by now, this is going to be a shooting scenario,” MCC instructor Todd Geringer told Metropolitan Community College health care, police, fire and other students just minutes before bedlam would erupt.

But the scenario, while realistic, would also be simulated and controlled.

As for the shooter? “He’s a real nice guy,” Geringer said. “He’s a Kansas City cop.” That statement provoked laughter among the participants.

The staged mass casualty event on Friday, April 13, was a training exercise for students in six disciplines at MCC: nursing, EMS, health information management, radiologic technology, police and fire. The students’ challenge: to work together in the aftermath of a simulated shooting in the parking garage at MCC’s Health Science Institute at 3444 Broadway.

The incident produced numerous “patients” and presented the responding students with multiple tasks to accomplish — all under great stress. Law enforcement officers were on hand to supervise.

In the pre-incident briefing, simulation instructor Geringer said the “shooting” wouldn’t last long — police students would quickly nab the perpetrator. So, unlike some real-life incidents, participants would not be sheltering in place in classrooms.

Instead, after shots were fired — an act that certainly looked and sounded authentic — first responders were quickly on scene assessing and treating the “victims,” some human and some simulators. The simulators are high-tech, lifelike mannequins that can speak and even moan in pain.

Participants all had roles to play. Some were to be demanding — getting in the face of responders and health care workers. Some were looking for a friend in all the confusion. Some would be belligerent; others, hysterical.

“This is going to be your acting debut,” Geringer had told them.

Twenty participants played patients. Early that morning, they underwent “moulage,” the application of fake wounds.

In the seconds after the shooting, many participants fled the scene, as scripted. Others lay injured on the garage floor. “Help!” yelled Terrell Tigner, MCC-Penn Valley associate dean for students. “I need some help over here! My friend’s been shot!”

Tigner was crouched beside one of two simulators that can actually bleed. Nearby, David Sommerkamp with simulator maker Gaumard controlled “Trauma HAL’s” responses by computer.

Later, a firefighter yelled to a group of injured, “If you can walk to me, walk to me!”

Outside the garage, a variety of victims were directed to sit on a curb as police and fire students attended to patients with more severe injuries.

Chasity Kurtz, an LPN student, was one of the actors. “I’m just (playing) dazed, confused, shocked,” she said.

All told, about 240 people took part in the exercise — including more than 130 health care, police and fire students, another 50 “confederates” (actors) and 20 faculty members.

The second half of the event was indoors, as patients were transported to rooms in the Virtual Hospital for treatment.

Here’s a gallery of images from the day (photos by Tim Engle, Jordan Williams and Laurel Zimmerman/MCC). Click any photo to see it larger.