The annual training exercise simulating a school shooting in Elgin for the first time featured real-time video and real-time patient tracking.
The Elgin police and fire departments held the training Tuesday morning at Kimball Middle School in conjunction with Advocate Sherman Hospital, Presence St. Joseph Hospital and St. Alexius Medical Center, which each treated some of the 72 "victims" of a "gunman" who entered the school at about 9:20 a.m. The training included about 200 role players and dozens of observers.
Elgin police had installed four cameras inside the school to monitor the training from its "real-time information center" inside the police department, Sgt. Jim Bisceglie said. The center also streamed images from an officer's cellphone inside the school and two cameras installed on a mobile trailer lent by Motorola Solutions, he said.
"It was easy to see how having real-time information from the scene of such a massive incident could be beneficial to all that respond," Bisceglie said.
The "gunman" shot himself and was found dead by an officer about three minutes into the drill, but police for a while continued to look for a reported second shooter. That's not uncommon during chaotic situations that involve dozens of 911 calls -- and exactly the kind of thing that live video feed can rectify if the information is relayed to officers on the field, Bisceglie said.
Medical personnel tested a cellphone app by Global Emergency Resources, which logs information about patients including name, condition and vital signs, and also can upload photos and video and scan driver's licenses, Assistant Fire Chief David Schmidt said.
The easy-to-use app is connected to software installed on hospital iPads and computers, which allows hospital personnel to monitor emergency responders' progress in real time. "You instantly become more efficient," Schmidt said, adding he hopes the fire department will be able to purchase that next year.
A federal grant allowed the purchase of the software for hospitals in the region. The testing of the software was successful, said Sherman EMS Coordinator Justin Williams. "It streamlines the process and reduces probably a little bit of redundant communications from the field," he said.
There were a few glitches during the training, however.
It took one hour and 5 minutes -- or about 25 minutes longer than anticipated -- for the first victim to be transported from inside the school to a triage area set up outside, due to miscommunication between medical and police armored vehicle personnel, Schmidt said. "I don't know that it was anyone's fault per se," he said. "We'll sit down at the end of the week (with police) and review all the data and the facts."
Also, an armored vehicle from Will County got stuck in a muddy grassy area. Two armored vehicles from Elgin and Naperville also were used, Schmidt said.
But the point of the training is to test the system in order to continuously improve it, police and fire officials said.
"It's a very good training exercise to do annually," Elgin Police Cmdr. Dan O'Shea said. "It really tests our readiness to deal with chaotic situations. You're going to respond to real life the way you train, and that's what we want to do -- we train and train and train."
The drill also involved ancillary components such as Flight for Life and hospitals' blood and surgical supply companies, Schmidt said. "We try to get as many resources involved to test things as much as possible," he said.