Two armed gunmen roamed the halls of Brewster Middle School aboard Camp Lejeune early Wednesday morning as part of a planned emergency response demonstration.
The scenario involved active shooters moving freely throughout the school to test the abilities of multiple agencies to respond to a crisis situation.
“Today’s exercise focused on a shooter, but it could have been any number of emergencies that we need to practice and be ready for at all times. Unfortunately we live in a world where things are uncertain and we have to practice things that we don’t want to practice ... but if they do happen we need to be ready,” Col. Nicholas Davis said, operations officer for Marine Corps Installations East.
Exercise Urgent Response demonstration tested the capabilities of the Camp Lejeune Fire & Emergency Services, Marine Corps Police, the Department of Defense Education Activity, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune and II Marine Expeditionary Force Marines, among other agencies.
“I think anytime that you actually exercise on the ground, you start to see how the friction points arise just between normal communication in a crisis. From the schools all the way to the base to the community, we need to be very cognisant of the message we’re sending. We’re dealing with people’s children today, and something as simple as putting exercise in front of a message, that still didn’t alleviate some people’s fears and we need to make sure we do a better job communicating,” Davis said Wednesday morning.
No students were involved in the demonstration, instead they were on lockdown in the classrooms doing schoolwork, according to the event coordinators.
The Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune was also a major component to Exercise Urgent Response.
“We wanted to test the ability of the Emergency Department and see the number of casualties, or seriously injured. And we do this periodically, it’s required by the Joint Commission to maintain our accreditation and it is also important to our commanding officer and to our staff here to maintain that skill set…” said Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Kotora, the Operational Forces medical liaison and EMS medical director.
The active shooter drill tested the base’s emergency notification system, the schools’ emergency lockdown procedure, law enforcement and emergency response capabilities, according the press release for the event.
“Largely I was a facilitator, trying to coordinate the operations in the Emergency Department, resuscitation and casualties. And then facilitate that information back to the Emergency Operations Center,” said Kotora.
The evaluation of the demonstration will help to identify gaps in current all-hazards response plans, resource shortfalls and the value in mutual aid agreements with the local community.
“This staff does not delineate between operation and exercise, so they treat this as if it were a serious incident. Everybody moves with a purpose, there is a sense of urgency in every person who attends these things and I’m just incredibly proud to be with them,” Kotora said. “Communication is always an issue in a large scale event like this, (but the hospital staff was) flexible, they reacted well, and they were also proactive anticipating casualties and issues with supplies and blood.