Sabrina Thompson, The Observer

In the event of a mass casualty incident, resources such as law enforcement, fire departments and hospitals can easily become overwhelmed by the volume of people they must take care of. With proper training and preparation, the feeling of being in over their heads can be lessened.

On Aug. 12, local public safety agencies are partnering with Grande Ronde Hospital and the La Grande School District to train for this unfortunate scenario. Training will take place on
K Avenue in front of the high school and at Grande Ronde Hospital.

“The importance of us doing the training like this is a lot of the agencies work independently, but in an MCI, we would be working together,” Lt. Gary Bell of the La Grande Police Department said. “It’s important to collaborate effectively and communicate.”

Those participating in the training will be practicing response collaboration and incident command protocols; the rescue, collection and transport of injured persons; and the triage, treatment and tracking of persons injured in a MCI. Examples of MCIs include, but are not limited to, mass shootings, acts of terrorism and natural disasters.

The organizations and agencies involved in this exercise will be Union County Emergency Services, La Grande Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police, La Grande School District, City of La Grande Fire Department, La Grande Rural Fire Department, Grande Ronde Hospital and Life Flight Network.

“There will be a number of police officers, medical personnel, firefighters and their vehicles in and near the training areas during this exercise,” according to a press release from the LGPD. “There will be signs posted in the area providing notice of the training. Measures will be taken to minimize inconvenience to the public.”

Bell said MCIs are what they call a high-risk, low-frequency emergency — it is unlikely to happen, but if it does, the response poses a lot of risks. Because of this, Bell advised that in the event of an actual MCI, people should stay home and pay attention to the media, including social media, rather than rushing out to the scene themselves, which could take vital resources away from those who need it.

Previous trainings have shown departments where they are strongest, and areas that need improvement, such as communication. The hope is that this year’s training will do the same.