Fire trucks and police cars from all over the Puget Sound converged upon Bellevue High School Saturday as students held on to bloody limbs and screamed for help and for their moms -- all according to a script drawn up for a large-scale multi-agency emergency drill.
About 270 police and fire fighters from around the area went to Bellevue High School for an emergency exercise, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The practice was slated for two days at the high school.
“This is about as big as it gets,” said Bellevue Fire spokesman Lt. Troy Donlin.
Participating agencies include Bellevue’s and Departments, Seattle’s Fire and Police Departments, along with law enforcement officers and firefighters from King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties.
More than 100 lined up to be made up as casualties who have been shot, maimed or killed for the large-scale emergency drill.
While police and fire agencies have plans for situations involving mass casualties, such as a shooting incident, the agencies this weekend will see how their plans mesh together on a large scale, Donlin said.
“It happens to take place in a school,” Donlin said. “We could have done this in a mall. It would have been anywhere that a building would have been available to us.”
The exercise was funded by the Homeland Security's Urban Areas Security Initiative, he said, which is meant for agencies to prepare for terrorist situations or natural disasters.
The scenario rehearsed by the local agencies at Bellevue High School this weekend was a terrorist attack in the style of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, when 164 people died in multiple coordinated attacks across the city of Mumbai.
Police officers played the parts of the multple-shooters and the students played the parts of victims and witnesses and were in various stages of injury.
The students were given specific roles to play, and ways to react to the situation.
But the police officers and firefighters were not told in advance how exactly the scenario would play out and how the officers playing the shooters would carry out the attack.
“The police officers and the fire fighters have been told, ‘React to what you see,’” Donlin said.
Students were told to stick to their scripts for their own safety.
“We don’t want students acting like aggressors because they will be dealt with,” Donlin said.
"One of the lessons we took away from Columbine, was that we could get to the patients a lot faster if we had a higher level of collaboration between police and fire."
“I think they responded quite well, they were in there right away. Very large number of officers, so they were able to scan through the whole building quite quickly,” said Casey Lee, a Bellevue High School junior who was playing the part of a casualty.
However, Brennan Wilkerson, a senior at Bellevue High School who played the role of someone who had died, said the wait for help for himself and his fellow students sometimes felt interminable.
"They were sitting next to me moaning and screaming for help for like 20 minutes," Wilkerson said. "I don't know. That felt really weird."