Kansas prepares for mass casualty

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — For the first time, Kansas agencies are joining together to prepare and practice for a mass fatality incident.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Kansas Division of Emergency Management are hosting seven exercises all across the state. The third exercise is set to take place at 10 a.m. in Wichita at the Heartland Preparedness Center.

According to state officials, local communities prepare for mass casualty incidents with their local emergency planning team, never at the state level.

“We need to continually review our capabilities and our capacities to respond to all sorts of emergencies,” said KDHE Deputy Preparedness director Michael McNulty. “Unfortunately in emergencies, we have fatalities, so when we look at when those fatalities exceed the community’s capacities…what can the region, what can the states do to help support them in their hour of need?”

Some of the south central Kansas agencies participating in today’s workshop include the health department, law enforcement, hospital staff, coroners, emergency medical services, fire departments and behavioral health professionals.

The topics they’ll be discussing include:

  • Individual roles of each agency in a mass casualty
  • Fatality management
  • Morgue operations
  • Available resources for families of victims

The workshop will end with a simulated tragedy that the agencies will work through together.

“This is how this event is unfolding in your community, how would you guys respond to this? What do your plans say? What do your procedures say?,” explained McNulty.

McNulty added that one of the keys to emergency preparedness is thinking of the events that could happen.

Recently the nation has seen mass shootings at a Texas church, a Kentucky school and a music festival in Las Vegas.

“Unfortunately these events can happen, and they can happen in any community,” said McNulty. “When you look at our communities across Kansas, there are a variety of different challenges that could occur.”

According to state officials, as good emergency preparedness professionals, they need to not only think about what events could happen — but what if it were to be a degree higher?

“What if it were to be catastrophic,” asked McNulty.

He said it’s important for the different agencies to work together to prepare and improve procedures, because responding to a mass casualty incident is a team effort.

“We never know when it may happen,” McNulty said. “If we are constantly preparing, if we are challenging ourselves as emergency response and those non-typical emergency response professionals, it’s going to get us more ready.”

Future exercises will be held at:

  • Salina on Thursday
  • Parsons on March 6
  • Topeka on March 8
  • Leavenworth on March 20

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