If a gun-wielding person were to stray onto a school campus in this area, emergency responders want to be prepared as best they can. That’s the rationale for an active-shooter simulation drill to be held Saturday at Merced’s Golden Valley High School.
Michelle Bliss, Golden Valley’s associate principal for safety, attendance and discipline, expects 160 to 170 people to take part in the exercise, which will begin by 9 a.m. at the school at 2121 E. Childs Ave.
“If a tragedy happens in our operations area, we want to be prepared as best as possible,” Don Roe, a Merced Fire Department battalion chief, said.
Roe said the department will test its incident command and control system. Firefighters will monitor the initial evaluation of incident injuries, called triage, along with victims’ treatment and transportation to medical centers.
Jeremy Rahn, a Merced County Fire Department battalion chief and coordinator of the state Office of Emergency Services in the county, said Saturday’s simulation should be a good exercise to determine not only the school’s readiness in this situation but emergency responders’ as well. Rahn will determine if any assistance is needed from state officials in an active-shooter situation.
“Thankfully we haven’t had to respond to an active shooter here,” Rahn said. “Anytime you have an incident of this magnitude, it’s important to work with emergency medical services and emergency responders.”
Bliss said an incident a year ago where an armed student was believed to be on campus made school officials realize they weren’t as prepared as they thought they would be. Ultimately no weapon was found on campus.
However, she said, the various agencies that would respond to an active-shooter situation haven’t worked together in some time.
“We decided we needed additional training to test ourselves and other agencies,” Bliss said. “It will be interesting to test the waters to see where we need to improve.”
Steve Melander, general manager of Riggs Ambulance Service, said Saturday’s exercise will be a great training opportunity for all parties.
“It’s critical we train to be prepared to act,” Melander said. “It’s unfortunate these incidents happen. This is going to be a well-executed training drill and pretty comprehensive.”
The Merced Police Department, Merced Fire Department, the county’s OES, Riggs Ambulance Service and Mercy Medical Center Merced will take part in the drill. The simulation has been in the planning stages for three to four months, Bliss said.
Roe said two city fire battalion chiefs and one fire engine with three firefighters will be on scene. Student volunteer “role players” will be wearing different-colored shirts and have cards listing what injury they experienced.