La Crosse first responders practice disaster scenario

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La Crosse Police Officer helps a victim in the training.
La Crosse Police Officer helps a victim in the training.

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – First responders have a unique job. A routine day could suddenly become the most challenging of their lives.

Wednesday several La Crosse agencies ran a drill practicing their response to a large scale disaster.

It started with a single phone call and the La Crosse Police Department sprung into action.

“We’re looking at a large scale event that occurred and how our officers will respond,” Sgt. Tom Walsh said.

While screams of pain come from the bus involved, this time it’s only a drill. Students of the Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicine, or WARM, crafted the drill with the help of local first responders.

“We pick something that they choose that they’d like to work on that year,” Director of WARM in La Crosse, Dr. Kimberly Lansing.”This year we chose a scenario with a school bus.”

One of the victims in the training helps another.
One of the victims in the training helps another.

The scenario is a bus driver has a medical emergency and the bus collies with a tanker truck.

While visually it looks real with the broken glass and the bus tipped over, it’s the students acting out their injuries that gets the local first responders feeling like it’s a real event.

“When they see the wounds, when they can hear the screaming and hear the concerns….I think that does nothing but enhance and help our officers moving forward,” Walsh added.

Even officials with the School District of La Crosse watched the response to take notes on how they can help.

“A training like this gives us a chance to re-evaluate what we have in place, but then also to re-evaluate and see what we can do better,” Safety Coordinator Scott Johnson said.

Adding additional layers to the response, like parents coming to the scene and them wanting to see their children, makes first responders aware there is more to than just attending to the wounded.

La Crosse Fire Department vehicle.“We want them to get used to the chaos and the blood. We really tried to get as real as we can in this scenario so they know what to expect,” Dr, Lansing added.

All the agencies who participated in the scenario held a debrief after to talk about what went well and what could be changed if a real situation ever occurred. All involved hoped to do this type of training annually to keep every on the top of their game.

La Crosse Police officer approaches the training bus to communicate with those inside.
Jeremy Culver

Jeremy Culver

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