Sleepy Eye's emergency services came together Wednesday evening, Nov. 14, to conduct a disaster drill that had been several months in the planning stage.

Sleepy Eye’s emergency services came together Wednesday evening, Nov. 14, to conduct a disaster drill that had been several months in the planning stage. The scenario was one that no community wants to imagine — the aftermath of a school shooting incident. The drill was held at Sleepy Eye High School and the Sleepy Eye Medical Center. Sleepy Eye Ambulance, Fire and Police Departments, and SEMC staff, along with high school students and some adults, participated in the drill.

The drill started after the student volunteers, many of whom had been made-up with fake blood and injuries, were in place in the school gym. The first to respond was the Sleepy Eye Police Department who searched through the school and declared it safe for the other emergency responders to enter. The fire department blocked off the streets leading to the school.

Next came the Ambulance Service people who entered the gym and began determining which students needed attention. They were assisted by the fire department and all worked together to transport victims to the hospital.

Sleepy Eye’s Emergency Manager, Shari Hittesdorf, said the drill was a culmination of several meetings held between the participating agencies over the past several months. “We discussed many of the procedures we currently use so everyone would be on the same page,” she said. “We each then took that information back to our staffs and trained them for the drill.”

Hittesdorf said the drill showed what works well and where improvement need to be made. Fire Chief Ron Zinniel and Police Chief Matt Andres made similar comments, and all three said the drill went very well.

“The drill was a total success with an estimated 100 employees of the four departments participating,” said Hittesdorf. Chief Zinniel said his guys thought the drill went smoothly and was well planned and organized. “The plan we have in place for the fire department worked very well,” he said.

Chief Andres said it was good to see the area emergency services work together. “The coordination between the police department, fire department, ambulance and Sleepy Eye Medical Center was a great experience,” he said. “I can honestly say, after the drill Sleepy Eye is better off if a disaster were to happen. We have talked and planned for these incidents but there is no substitution for live training. The drill raised a few questions for the Police Department. We will address these questions so we are better prepared. I was happy with the Officers participating and how the entire scene was handled.”

SEMC was also pleased with the drill. “Overall the exercise was a great success,” said Chiloe Kottke, RN, SEMC Emergency Preparedness Coordinator. “It’s all about learning. We do these exercises so that we are prepared to care for our patients in the most efficient way possible. I was thoroughly impressed with the response of our staff and their willingness to take this seriously. Dr. Harman Dhaliwal’s (Medical Director) take charge attitude set the tone for the rest of the team and prepared them for the influx of patients. Hopefully we never have to put this drill into place for a real event, but if we do our community can be assured that Sleepy Eye Medical Center and local EMS are prepared.”

Hittesdorf also recognized the helpfulness of the volunteers who participated. “We thank the 40 student and adult participants for helping us navigate through this multi-casualty incident,” she said. “Without their efforts we could not have met the drill objectives.” Chief Andres agreed, saying it would not have been such a good learning tool without the students.