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Exercise Helps Prepare Community for Potential Emergencies

Planning Exercise Helps Auraria Campus and Denver Community Prepare for Potential Emergency Crises

The Auraria Campus and broader Denver community’s emergency plans to manage a mass casualty were put to the test during a tabletop exercise on August 15th.

Organized by the North Central All-Hazards Emergency Management Region (NCR) and Denver Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), the exercise brought together first responders; public information officers and communicators; hospital and emergency department staff; human services, emergency planning, and student life staff; and campus executives to engage in functional group discussions on response and recovery issues during a simulated emergency. 

The goal of a tabletop exercise is to test emergency plans in a low-stress, classroom-like environment. Through organized discussions, participants clarify their roles and responsibilities, as well as identify preparedness gaps.

Hosted by the Auraria Campus Emergency Preparedness Office, this tabletop exercise involved a mock situation of a terrorist attack with bomb explosions during a concert on the Tivoli Quad, followed by a shooting inside of the Tivoli Student Union. The simulated incident resulted in over 100 casualties. 

The exercise structure included two modules: saving lives and community support/recovery. During the saving lives module, participants discussed their immediate response to the scenario, focusing on the impact to area hospitals, media reaction, and the tactical operations required by first responders. The community support and recovery module focused on participants’ actions in the aftermath of the incident, taking into consideration victims’ needs, memorials, vigils, ongoing communications, donations, and the emotional and physical toll on emergency responders. 

During the modules, each functional group reviewed a set of questions pertinent to their roles, noting critical issues and decisions that would be made, as well as identifying needs for more resources, training, policies, and planning. After each module, the groups came together as a whole to debrief the questions and discuss how they would work together in reality.

“To be well prepared for emergencies, we need to practice how we would actually respond—with participants from every agency that would have a role,” said Eric Leath, Auraria Campus Emergency Preparedness Manager. “This was a successful tabletop in that we brought all players to the table, including hospitals and emergency department staff who needed to have honest conversations about how they would work together with first responders to handle a huge influx of critical patients during a mass casualty situation.”

NCR is developing an after-action report that will consider the results of the discussions and present important next steps to improve the community’s ability to cope with a mass casualty incident.