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Domestic terrorism exercise staged at CUHS

May 19, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA,Staff Writer

Central Union High School staff, El Centro police and firefighters, El Centro city staff, various other fire departments from the Imperial Valley and emergency medical services workers gathered Saturday morning to perform a drill dealing with something they would rather not ever happen — a school shooting.

The drill was at Central's El Centro campus. The domestic terrorism exercise had been planned since December.

El Centro Fire Battalion Chief Timothy Reel said organizers chose to stage it at Central because of its vexing location.

"Here you have to close down 12 intersections, whereas Southwest you would only have to close the gates," said Reel.

The first part of the exercise was done Wednesday, when the apprehension of the fictional gunman was done during a tabletop exercise with some field command posts. The second part, done Saturday, dealt with the aftermath of a mass shooting.

The second part of the exercise had about 100 students volunteer their Saturday morning to play a role in the drill.


Lucy Langworthy, 16, a Central sophomore, was one of the participants. She played a student shot in the side of the chest.

"I did it to experience what would happen in an actual shooting," she said.

She said EMS personnel looked calm and were taking their roles seriously.

Moments before the drill was set to start, Central Principal Emma Jones was walking up and down the aisles inside the administration building.

"I'm nervous," she said. "It's a responsibility of 1,600 students with 200 staff and the possibility of this really happening puts nuts in my stomach."

The drill started when students, EMS workers and officials from the different agencies involved gathered in the school's multipurpose room for a briefing from Reel.

Reel told of the objectives with the exercise: to evaluate the ability of EMS to perform necessary functions and operate within the standardized emergency management system guidelines; develop checklists to assist EMS in performing duties; evaluate communications plans and equipment; evaluate field response; and fulfill mandated exercise requirements.

After the drill Reel told a reporter that those involved are confident they met all their objectives and have some ideas to improve them.

Students were assigned various injuries. The "injured" were spread across the science building, library, on the open grass in the middle of the campus and in the administration building.

Two students were labeled as deceased, which didn't sit well with Jones.

"I was asked to identify two bodies and I just paused," said Jones.

"You know these fine young students and athletes and the fact that this could happen …" Jones didn't finish her sentence but simply shook her head.

She said those involved have already found some things on which to work to improve their plan.

Reel said, "It's a positive thing."

"You work how you train. We can always make it better," said Reel.

He said he would like to someday see the whole exercise done in one day, from the shooting by the gunman to the medical attention of injured students.

"Unfortunately, something of that magnitude is very difficult," said Reel.

A critique of the exercise will be given at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the CUHS district boardroom at 351 Ross Ave.

Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3435.

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