Students wailed for help as others worked to figure out how to help at a mock emergency event at Cleveland State Community College on Thursday.
The third annual multidisciplinary disaster simulation allowed nursing, emergency medical technician and medical assisting students to practice for a scenario they hope they will never have to see in real life — a mass shooting on a college campus.
Jada Stewart, an EMT instructor, said every student involved had a specific role to play. Some had “fatal wounds,” while others were told to act like emotionally distraught witnesses to the “shooting.” Others were doctors working in a room set up to be a “hospital,” where the students playing first responders would take the injured.
“The whole point of this is triage, to help people recognize who to treat,” Stewart said.
While students preparing to be the faux doctors and first responders sat in a classroom listening carefully as nursing instructor Jennifer Shearer explained how they were supposed to triage the wounded and get them to wherever they needed to go, the students playing the victims were giggling as medical instructors assigned them injuries by handing them cards with information and outfitting them with makeup to represent realistic wounds.
Before the simulation started, Shearer also spoke to the students playing the victims. Even if they were supposed to be “dead,” students playing the “victims” were told to take note of how they were treated and determine whether or not their classmates were going about things in the right way.
Even though many of the students have chosen not to work in emergency situations on a regular basis, she said the simulation would help them see how any person with medical knowledge could potentially help when an emergency means extra help is needed.
“It is to show you what you can do — even if it is outside your norm — in an emergency,” Shearer said.
The victims took their places in the college’s auditorium to represent the location of the shooting, and the atmosphere turned from comical to serious as instructors reminded students to “be distraught” and “play dead.” One student with a serious-looking “head wound” reminded a classmate who had pulled out her cellphone for a moment that “dead people don’t play on their phones.”
Others, like real first responders would be, were on call to help with the emergency.
When the students received their cue to act hurt, they responded by slumping their shoulders, sinking to the ground, crying or yelling. It was organized chaos as the medical personnel poured in, presumably after the “shooting” situation had been deemed safe.
Victims were taken to triage areas where their “wounds” were taken care of before being sent to the “hospital.” The upset but physically unharmed witnesses were taken to an area where they could later be met by counselors. Concerned “family members” who had showed up on campus were taken to a waiting area. “Security guards” kept nosy members of the general public out of the first responders’ way.
Local Red Cross volunteers and law enforcement officials who are accustomed to being called upon in real-life emergencies helped out with the simulation by taking note of how students did so they could discuss their findings later.
While it was an event for the students, some volunteers said they had learned from the experience as well.
Red Cross volunteer Jamie Lewis said he is prepared to help in a real emergency, but seeing a mock emergency allowed him to distance himself from the situation and see what should ideally be done.
Cleveland State Campus police officer Thomas Kimsey said that, while the campus police are trained to deal with scenarios like the one being depicted by the medical students, it had also helped him to see what it might actually look like for mass chaos to happen on campus.
“It’s a two-way learning street,” Kimsey said.