Long Beach emergency agencies sharpen skills during active-shooter drill at CSULB
August 9, 2019
As Cal State Long Beach junior Jessica Cardenas lay on the ground, motionless, she could hear the screams of fellow classmates and teachers calling out for help as a simulated gunman opened fire.
Cardenas volunteered to play the role of a dead victim as part of an active-shooter drill Long Beach emergency agencies conducted outside the University Student Union building Friday morning.
Although the gun-shot wound to her head was fake and made out of make-up, the feeling of sadness in her heart for the actual victims of mass shootings was real.
“Being able to hear them screaming and crying for law enforcement, paramedics, it was very eerie,” Cardenas said. “Being inside [during the drill] and recalling how everything played out, and then once you are put outside, and you see the sun and the sky, it makes you reflect a lot, and think ‘something dark happened inside the student union at Cal State Long Beach,’ even though it was a simulation.”
Cardenas was one of the four fake fatalities in a simulated school shooting where the made-up shooter used a prop handgun to shoot and wound 25 casualties as part of the drill.
Law enforcement officials from the Long Beach Police Department, the University Police Department and medical staff from the Long Beach Fire Department, Dignity Health Trauma Center and school staff participated in the drill to hone their skills to be prepared in the event of a real active-shooter situation actually occurring.
The drill began shortly after 9am when three police officers, armed with carbine-style rifles, ballistic helmets and vests entered the student union cautiously.
Allyson Joy, campus emergency manager, said teams of officers were first tasked with identifying the shooter’s location within the building. Although it was not clear from where the press was situated during the drill, a school press release said officers fired simulated non-lethal bullets that may have sounded similar to lethal rounds.
Joy said communication is often the first challenge during actual high-profile shootings.
“Whether it’s a drill or a real-life incident, the one thing that always fails is communication,” Joy said. “So, when you have multiple law-enforcement agencies and multiple fire departments and they’re all on different channels […] and we train with them, we get a chance to make sure we have access to each other’s radio channels and we know our counterparts.”
As armed teams of officers swept through the buildings, volunteers playing shooting victims ran or limped toward LBFD personnel.
A multi-colored triage was set up in the parking lot adjacent to the student union where medical staff practiced treating varying degrees of gunshot wounds.
Kathy Dollarhide, director of the Dignity Health Disaster Resource Center, said there were multiple trauma nurses practicing how to treat the wounded during the drill.
“It was a great demonstration of how well, if people are trained and drilled, they can come out and function as a team,” she said. “These are great people who are training and drilling together, and we are very proud to be a part of this.”
Volunteers playing critically-wounded victims were treated on a red tarp, others with less deadly wounds were treated on yellow and green tarps.
Those playing dead were on a seperate black tarp under the shade of the trees. That is where Cardenas lay.
“More schools should do [shooting drills],” she said. “It should really bring more awareness because it is happening way too often– my heart hurts, still.”
After the hour-long drill, CSULB President Jane Close Conoley participated in a mock press conference and answered questions.
Following the mock conference, Conoley said education is a key component in preparing the school for real emergency situations.
The school has a police department with 26 officers on standby.
“It’s a sad time in our country– El Paso and Dayton– and you can go back and back to Columbine,” Conoley said. “The most responsible thing for us to do, despite the trauma that this causes for people, is to keep our preparedness as great shape as we can.”