PHOTOS: Northwest College Hosted Largest Homeland Security Training in Wyoming History
Written by Jessi Entel on June 14, 2023
On Wednesday, June 14th, Northwest College in Powell hosted one of the largest homeland security trainings for first responders, complete with United States Army Blackhawk Helicopters. With the goal to strengthen collaboration, communication and coordination, the intensive training prepared first responders for worst-case scenarios in one of the most effective trainings in Wyoming history.
What was originally envisioned as a county-wide active shooter exercise quickly evolved into a full-scale mass casualty training for local and regional first responders across the Big Horn Basin, including the Wyoming National Guard. Numerous law enforcement agencies, as well as hospitals in the region were put through multiple real-life scenario casualty events from an active shooter situation to a hazmat emergency and more.
An event of this magnitude was no easy feat to put together, as it took multiple agencies almost a year to plan. Organizers Jeff Martin, the Park County Emergency Manager for the Department of Homeland Security and Cody physician Dr. Elise Lowe, who is also the physician advisor for the Big Horn Basin Healthcare Coalition and a member of the Park County Search and Rescue, took time to address in a press conference before the mass casualty event took place the significance of the training.
“As you’re watching the news, you understand that these events [mass shootings] are becoming more common and we want to be ready for them.” Dr. Lowe also said, “When you look at the data of events like this, the critical point is when law enforcement meets EMS.”
Over 300 participants were involved in the multi-agency training and gave many first responders an opportunity to prepare for a mass emergency together for the first time; allowing law enforcement and healthcare officials to train side by side in case of a large scale mass casualty event to make every critical moment matter.
“For a county like Park County we don’t get an opportunity like this to train with all of our responders, all of our hospitals and coordinate that response together,” said Martin. “This is a large scale exercise that is absolutely necessary.”
Martin wanted the citizens of Park County to know that all law enforcement and healthcare workers are constantly training, often on their days off, to improve their skills to better serve the community. “We are always looking, always preparing, and trying to find out where we could be better,” said Martin.
“We have had a ton of support from the community and we don’t want to overlook that,” shared Dr. Lowe.
Park County hosted the largest intensive cross-agency mass casualty training in Wyoming, but not the only one. Multiple Wyoming counties including Campbell, Crook, Johnson, Laramie, Natrona, Park, Platte, Sheridan, and Weston are participating or have already participated in the Vigilant Guard training sponsored by the U.S. Northern Command, the National Guard.
Governor Mark Gordon attended the training in Powell to see firsthand how our first responders are preparing for large scale active situations. “The Governor is coming here, of all the places,” Martin said. “That just goes to show how dedicated our group of pros are out here. It’s good to see at a state level that we have a pretty good thing going.”
The education does not stop today, as all agencies and healthcare facilities plan to continue the training on mass casualty scenarios. If you heard the loud noises from the choppers or the gunfire from the campus, know that there was nothing to be worried about. In fact, the chaos from today’s events are a loud yet reassuring reminder that our troops and first responders are practicing on how they can protect us all from danger.