Fort Drum runs active shooter drill, mass casualty exercise at local hospitals (VIDEO)



WATERTOWN - Fort Drum, Carthage Area Hospital and Samaritan Medical Center joined forces to run an annual full-scale mass casualties drill on Wednesday morning.

The training exercise tests and prepares emergency responses to mass casualty events on base and at the local hospitals, to keep both soldiers and medical professionals on their toes.

This year’s scenario, which was kept secret ahead of time, involved two active shooters near the Black River gate on Nash Boulevard, a hostage situation inside a guard building and a commandeered bus. One of the faux attackers also had an “explosives” suicide vest.

“The people at the emergency operations center, the incident commander — we want their wheels to be grinding,” said John Simard, Installation Antiterrorism Officer, in a public statement. “They need to figure all this out.”

Mr. Simard said the scenarios are complicated by design with changing variables.

“We purposely overwhelm the incident commander with this to see how that person responds to all the information coming in and determines the priorities of action.”

He said the full-scale exercise tests the coordinated efforts and cooperation, and incorporates local agencies like Samaritan, Carthage Area Hospital and Jefferson County Fire and Emergency Management.

Stephen Falk, Emergency Management Hazard Communication coordinator, helped organize Samaritan’s training portion, including a full triage area in the ambulance bay.

“We’ve got physicians, first responders, nurses,” Mr. Falk said. “There are a lot of different people involved in making this work.”

Mr. Falk stressed the importance of the hospital being ready for a mass casualty emergency — especially being so near an Army base. Accidents happen, he noted, like when a wayward mortar shell hit a mess tent about 10 years ago.

Also on scene were a group of teen volunteers to help and learn.

Morgan Ortega, a student volunteer at Samaritan, moved to Watertown when her father was stationed at Fort Drum. She hopes to follow in his footsteps and become a linguist for the military.

”I’ve never done anything like this before,” Ms. Ortega said. “All the drills, the preparation, I think this is the perfect way to get a real feel for the military.”

Jen JacksonComment