Cabell County officials stay prepared for active shooter situation

CABELL COUNTY W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A shooting in San Bernardino, California, left 14 people dead Wednesday and several others injured. In wake of the tragedy, the latest mass shooting in the United States, WSAZ looked into what officials in Cabell County are doing to prepare for a similar situation if it arises.

"It could happen here, and we just have to be aware," said West Virginia State Trooper Greg Losh. "We have to prepare."

Losh said troopers train for an active shooter situation with other local law enforcement agencies. While he couldn't go into detail about their tactics, he said it's crucial they understand how each agency operates in a mass casualty situation.

"That gets us together, gets us talking," Losh said. "All the first responders and that line of communication is really important when you're trying to prepare for something that could happen."

He said it's important for people to be vigilant and keep their eyes peeled for anything suspicious when out in public.

"People just need to pay attention to their surroundings, especially during the holidays when there's more people out," said Losh.

He said it's also important to know where exits are so you can easily escape. Similar advice given by Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry.

"Know how to get out of a place quickly," Merry said.

Merry agreed that the communication between agencies is crucial during a mass casualty scenario.

"The cooperation, knowing everyone prior to the incident, is a key role," Merry said.

Merry has worked in emergency response for more than 40 years and said the approach to an active shooter situation has changed over time.

"It used to be everyone waited until we got enough people to go in," Merry said. "Now, law enforcement is taking a different stance. They do enter as soon as one or two are there. They will go in and try to subdue whoever the perpetrator would be."

He said first responders are continually learning from each tragedy in order to be more prepared.

"Each one's critiqued," Merry said. "'How could we have done this better? What could we have done? Could we reduce our losses?'"

Merry calls the scene of an active shooting "organized chaos."

He said when EMTs arrive at the scene, one of the crew members will do an initial evaluation of injuries. He or she will use different- colored tape to label the victims by the severity of their injuries.

Later, the victims are taken to triage units. There, they are given a tag that identifies more details about the injuries they've suffered and which hospital they should be taken to. Merry said one local hospital is dedicated to trauma and another will be dedicated to other injuries.

Merry said once a year the county's law enforcement and first responders get together for disaster training -- whether that be an active shooter, chemical explosion or natural disaster.

Just this August, the different agencies attended an active shooter training at Huntington Mall.

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