Mock disaster prepares agencies

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A police officer helps another officer, who is pretending to be wounded, to an ambulance past "victims" of a mock mass shooting at the University of North Texas' Discovery Park on Friday in Denton.
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Denton’s annual citywide mock disaster drill began Friday morning with two words, “We’re live,” from University of North Texas police Capt. Jim Coffey at UNT’s Discovery Park.

The drill was conducted by the city and UNT based on an active shooter coming through the front doors of the main building and opening fire on anyone in his path as he strolled through the hallways, officials said.

The drill drew more than a dozen agencies and about 150 responders and volunteers to Discovery Park on Friday.

While UNT has hosted discussions in the past, Coffey said this was the first large-scale disaster drill held on the campus. With mass-casualty shootings making national headlines, the mock shooting was designed to help everyone be prepared, he said.

“It could happen anytime or anywhere, so we want to do what we can to be prepared,” Coffey said.

Shouts of feigned pain and agony were heard from hallways to triage stations that were set up outside the building.

“The shooter was confronted by two police officers,” said Ed Reynolds, deputy chief of police for UNT, in outlining the simulated scenario. “One was shot at and injured while the other officer killed the intruder.”

The disaster drill ended with 34 people wounded and four pronounced dead — including the shooter and a “star football player.”

Multiple agencies participated in the drill, including the FBI, the cities of Denton, Argyle, Krum, Justin, Sanger, Little Elm and Aubrey, as well as the Lake Cities Fire Department, UNT, Texas Woman’s University, Texas Department of Public Safety, the Denton County Transportation Authority, PHI and CareFlite air ambulance services and Sacred Cross EMS.

Denton Fire Department Battalion Chief Brian Glenn said each agency had its own areas of interest, from testing the UNT Eagle Alert system to reviewing the command post structure to assessing the interaction among the agencies.

Glenn said drills like this are important because they help him focus his training efforts for paramedics.

Lindsey Baker, spokeswoman for the city of Denton, said the drills take months of preparation and she credited Michael Penaluna, the city’s emergency management coordinator, with helping organize the drill.

From the color-coordinated vests to the handbooks, the drill followed the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s plan for large-scale disasters, officials said.

“This campus is the most prepared I have seen in my history [of working at colleges],” said UNT President Neal Smatresk.

Reynolds said one of the most beneficial things coming from the drill is placing a face with a name.

“With the FBI and multiple area agencies responding, we have come to know one another so should anything happen in real life, we are comfortable working with one another,” he said. “That I feel is essential in emergency response.”

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.


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