Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Actors Getting “Shot” for the Greater Good

By • Jun 29th, 2011 • Category: News

On Monday morning Laura and I participated in a unique acting exercise: we were “shot” as part of a training exercise for The City of Fairfax Fire and Police Departments. The Rescue Task Force (RTF) is comprised of police and fire/EMS personnel who provide immediate medical aid to those injured in a shooting.

Over three days in the last week, the RTF held training at an abandoned elementary school in Fairfax City. Approximately 25 volunteers came out to be a victim at the simulated mass-shooting incident. The volunteers were all over 18 years old. While most were under 25, a few were retired folk staying active in their community.

Each victim was given a small card that assigned their role. On the card was a list of treatments that the EMS first responders would check off after they had evaluated the patient. We were also trained on some basic terminology, such as the difference between being “cooperative” and “uncooperative;” and GSW means gun shot wound. We were also warned to not look out the door of the classroom we were in, as the police would assume anyone in the hallway could be a shooter. After the police had searched the room, they would allow the EMS teams in to examine and treat the victims. EMS personnel would attach a colored strip of tape to our wrists (black=deceased, yellow=minor injury, red=major injury).

During our four hours at the elementary school, three different scenarios were run. In the first scenario, Laura’s card was “GSW to the head, not breathing.” My card was “unwounded, hysterical, uncooperative.” So Laura had to work at staying still and not reacting to the classroom door bursting open, while I learned that being hysterical isn’t easy for me to keep up for a long stretch of time. I also fell out of hysterics once I was removed from the classroom.

Laura’s second scenario was “GSW in the lower and upper right leg, moderate bleeding” while my scenario was “unwounded, compliant.” So I stayed with Laura doing first aid until the EMS team arrived. There was a lot of waiting in this scenario because we couldn’t see out of our classroom, so we didn’t know what was happening. In a real crisis, the stress of not knowing what was happening would be immense! Laura ended up getting placed into a transport tarp and carried out by two police officers (wearing body armor and carrying blue plastic pistols).

The final scenario I took Laura’s card from the second scenario and she got “GSW to upper arm, minor bleeding.” I was sitting against the wall, she was standing next to me. When the SWAT team entered the room, they searched the room for any shooters. Laura was ordered to sit down on the ground. We were then quickly searched by an officer for weapons (at the morning briefing we were told to leave any knives or cell phones in our cars, as they may be confiscated during the exercise.) After the area was secured we were evacuated, this time instead of being carried on a litter, we were walked to an ambulance with an officer supporting us. The ambulance took their victims to the end of the block to simulate the removal of victims from the scene.

This training exercise did not feature realistic makeup to create wounds. We were told to act and react as if there had been a real shooting, but the specifics were up to each actor. This exercise was aimed at training the EMS personnel how to handle a mass incident more than training the police how to respond. One actor during the second scenario (in a different classroom than us) decided to tell the SWAT team that he had a weapon. That escalated matters for that room, as everyone had to be closely searched, and that person had to be removed from the others, just in case he had been a shooter. For the final scenario, we were all told to not say we had a weapon.

Overall, this was a good experience. It wasn’t hard work, although some assignments are more difficult than others. Allowing the Fire/Rescue and Police Departments the chance to train with real people is invaluable.

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