A cheerful group of victims gathered early Tuesday morning at the University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan’s downtown Robertson Building. They were assigned injuries, and then they sipped coffee and chatted as they waited to become bloody participants in an active shooter emergency drill.
Some of Tuesday’s victims knew they would end up dead. One even asked for it, because she had to get to work and didn’t want to wait around for treatment. Others knew only what their injuries were, and the hospital later would determine whether they were hurt enough to pronounce dead.
As each of the victims finished in the makeup chair, they took photos of their gory wounds to post on Facebook.
Joanna Axelson said she and other victims were given scripts detailing their injuries, and how they should act. She said they were told to not laugh, and then she laughed.
“But if I’m sitting in a room by myself when somebody bursts in and shoots, I think it will be easy to be in character,” she said.
When asked to describe her script, she said, “I’m unable to get up, and I have to guard the injured area with my hands, and drift in and out of consciousness.”
Axelson says she‘ll improv the rest.
There were two shooters. The first, police dispatcher Kyle Bailey, paced the hallway before the exercise. He said he happily volunteered for the role.
“Basically I just approached the chief and said if you need a bad guy, I’d be happy to do it.”
Bailey said he loves paintball, and it was a great chance to use paintball equipment that is available only to law enforcement. He said he wasn’t given much in the way of detailed stage direction, but he knew he was to stay in a certain area.
“And after that, it’s up to me as the shooter to just… shoot,” he said.
The other shooter was Jason Alderson, the City of Ketchikan safety coordinator.
The victims were arranged throughout the building, on plastic sheeting to protect the carpet and furniture from all the fake blood. Then Alderson came through the front door, shot two people in reception and moved into the building. More shots were heard, along with screams and calls for help.
A few minutes later, police officers in full gear showed up and carefully made their way into the building, reporting victims as they searched for the shooter.
Police contained Bailey first. Alderson ended up with a hostage, in a standoff with police. It ended badly for the bad guy.
As soon as the mock threat was over, a wave of emergency medical responders swooped in to collect the victims and take them to the hospital for treatment.
Jared Hoover, a UAS employee, enjoyed his role as he waited for EMTs to help with his gaping leg wound.
He moaned for a while, and then said, “This is pretty cool, that’s for sure. This is an awesome experience. I can’t believe the wound they gave me though. My freaking bone is poking out.”
Ketchikan Police Department Joe White said the drill was as real as organizers could make it.
“Our officers did not know how many people were involved, how many students were gonna be inside, how many participants were gonna be inside,” he said. “Basically, it was like a real event for them.”
Rick Forkel, UA emergency management director, coordinated the exercise, which provided emergency response practice for university staff, as well as the police and fire department. As a victim continued to cry in the background, he said the true number of mock fatalities was not yet known.
“At the start of the exercise, we had 13 victims and two dead on arrival,” he said. “We’ll let the scenario play itself out and see what the final number is. I can’t even tell you that now. And certainly if it was a real world situation, it would take time. (In) Aurora, (Col.), it took 18-24 hours to 100-percent identify everybody. That’s just to give you an example.”
A mock news conference Wednesday morning should provide the totals, and give officials valuable practice dealing with the media.