A comprehensive emergency response drill at the Edgartown School Saturday included members of the Edgartown police and fire departments.
The drill is the culmination of constant and intensive training throughout the year, and put each member of both departments to the test.
“We [the departments] have a great working relationship, and have for many years. We work together in multiple capacities, and we have to adapt together,” Edgartown Fire Chief Alex Schaeffer said. “We are trying to stay at the forefront of our mission by working collaboratively.”
The drill provided an opportunity for both departments to test out some new equipment, and integrate a new operational goal for the town. “The next logical step is to put policies and procedures in place to have those new pieces of equipment be effective in real-world scenarios,” Schaeffer said.
Schaeffer thanked the Edgartown School for continuing to allow the departments to conduct the drill on their campus.
“They [the school] have been great. There is a convenience factor because it’s so close to the station, but it’s also to practice possible real-world active-threat situations,” Schaeffer said. “The school gives us a good venue to work out the kinks and think about what we are doing well, and what we can do better.”
But Schaeffer said the school also provides an opportunity to simulate an active shooter scenario. “You see school shootings in the news. We just want to be prepared for an active threat,” Schaeffer said. “There are so many things that could lead to us deploying, so we need to be ready.”
Schaeffer said that sometimes the departments train in a certain area, then must respond to an actual emergency soon after.
“We try to anticipate what might happen where, and we prepare for those scenarios,” Schaeffer said. “Each town has its logistical concerns and unique problems, so we have to be able to adapt.”
Monthly training sessions by both the fire and police department have culminated in the combined drill, in order to solidify the knowledge obtained over the course of the year, Schaeffer said.
Although Schaeffer said there is a strict set of standards that must be met and adhered to for these drills, the departments are “only limited by [their] imagination” in the way they work toward those goals.
“We always put our heads together during this time. It’s very impressive to see the two departments work so efficiently and effectively with one another,” Schaeffer said.
Edgartown Police Officer Jake Sylvia said one goal of the drill is to integrate fire and EMS resources with police resources.
He explained that part of the training exercise involved escorting medical personnel into a “warm zone” where there is possible danger. The purpose of this is to provide more direct and immediate medical attention to those who are wounded and require speedy treatment.
“This is a new concept that both departments have been introduced to, it was a concept put out by FEMA, and it stems from the studies of some active shooter events across the country,” Sylvia said.
According to Sylvia, studies highlight the fact that many people wounded in shootings don’t receive medical treatment fast enough, and die due to loss of blood.
“By escorting and protecting medical personnel into a possibly dangerous situation, we bring the treatment directly to the wounded,” Sylvia said. “It’s also about creating a dynamic that focuses on teamwork.”