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Organizers Say Recent Shootings Underline Need For Scheduled Emergency Drill

Johnson County agencies are conducting a coordinated response to a simulated active shooter incident. Organizers say recent shootings across the country underline the need for the exercise.

Law enforcement agencies, first responders and local hospitals across Johnson County will participate in an active shooter drill Tuesday at the University of Iowa’s Campus Recreation and Wellness Center in downtown Iowa City. A local official says recent mass shootings across the country underline the need for the training.

The exercise is meant to be a full-scale simulation for agencies across Johnson County that will test a multi-jurisdictional coordinated response from not only local officers but from area emergency medical technicians and health professionals as well.

Agencies including the Iowa City police and fire departments, the University of Iowa Campus Police Department, the North Liberty Police Department, Coralville police and fire departments, the Johnson County Ambulance Services, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and others will respond to an “active shooter."

First responders will triage volunteers who will pose as injured victims, stabilizing them and transporting them to area hospitals for treatment, where medical staff will conduct their own training protocols to simulate caring for a rapid influx of patients with gunshot wounds.

According to Johnson County Emergency Management, this is the first such drill to be conducted in about three years. Local law enforcement agencies regularly conduct their own trainings, but those typically don’t involve a coordinated response from medical teams as well, according to the department.

Tuesday’s training exercise comes less than two weeks after the country’s most recent mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas.

The timing of Johnson County’s drill following the shootings is coincidental, organizers say; the training has been in the works for years.

Johnson County Emergency Management Director Dave Wilson says the recent shootings do demonstrate that these exercises are needed.

“More than anything it probably reinforces the fact that yeah, this is a relevant thing, this isn’t some wild training exercise that is never going to happen here. I don’t think anybody feels that way,” Wilson said. “We all thought prior to Texas and prior to Ohio that this could happen here.”

With each mass shooting across the country, Wilson says agencies do additional preparation for the responsibility they never hope to have.

“So for us it’s all reality. We don’t take a, ‘it’s never going to happen here approach.' We try and be ready for what happens when it’s our turn, because it’s very possible,” Wilson said.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter