By Whitney Vickers
FAIRBORN — The Fairborn Police Department and Fairborn City School District have worked hand-in-hand in securing protocols for what officials describe as a mass casualty event.
“The children of our school systems are our most treasured commodity and even though we can’t predict or prevent an incident such as this from happening, at least we can be as prepared as we can to minimize injuries and save lives as quickly as possible,” Fairborn Police Chief Terry Barlow said.
Its goals include saving lives, reuniting students to their families and securing the means for a thorough and efficient investigation to take place, in that order, according to Fairborn Police Officer Bill Titley.
“Immediately after [an incident], we have the chance to save a lot of lives,” Titley said. “San Bernadino was an excellent example of how police and fire obviously worked together, they were obviously on the scene very quickly and they obviously got people out of there very quickly to the hospitals. Having a plan in place like this allows us to do that and not have a quagmire of people wondering around not knowing what to do.”
Public Relations Specialist Pam Gayheart of the Fairborn City School District said the district itself has an overview plan for a mass casualty incident, in addition to specific building plans.
According to Gayheart, the Ohio Revised Code states that school safety drills must be conducted at least three times per school year to give students instructions regarding which actions to take if a threat requires them to stay secure in the building or evacuate quickly, in conjunction with a local leading law enforcement officer.
In addition to the three drills, district leaders must undergo a theoretical school safety drill at least once in the school year to provide instructions for such an event to school teachers and staff members.
She said the Fairborn City School District follows these codes.
“Their plan [FCS] and [the police department’s] plan, there are no holes in it,” Titley said. “We’re in 100 percent agreement with them, they’re in 100 percent agreement with us. We helped them write their plan, we were instrumental with helping them train for their plan and they contributed their [evacuation sites], which was contributed to [the police department’s] plan. The two were written to be together.”
He felt that it was essential to create the plan in this manner after observing unsuccessful collaborations between varying police and fire agencies and school districts from around the state.
“We can’t let that happen here,” Titley said. “That’s not fair to the citizens and kids or anybody. This was born out of ‘how do we make sure everybody is on the exact same sheet of music?’ Understanding that we’re all people, but at least our plan would be step and step with them.”
Upon finalizing the revisions of the plan, it will be placed in every police car within the agency. Titley said that the goal is to eliminate the guesswork after a tragic event has occurred and make it possible for any officer to run the plan. The district has been briefed in each step of the plan.
It allows for flexibility whether the event is large or small. Titley said it is printed in the worst-case scenario, but allows for contraction.
Barlow said incidents that include injuries are handled by the local fire department. However, in relation to a mass casualty event, the police would serve as the primary public safety agency until the situation is neutralized. At that point, victim evacuation and injury treatment would leave the fire department as the primary public safety agency until that role is handed off again to the police department upon the need for scene containment and investigation.
“It’s kind of a hand-off, hand-off, hand-off type of thing, and a plan like this makes that flow and hand-off more efficient,” Barlow said.