How Western Washington prepares for mass casualty incidents

SEATTLE – While most people in Western Washington were reeling by Monday morning over the mass shooting in Nevada, many wondered what could happen if the same thing happened here.

How do first responders prepare to handle a mass shooting on the same scale here in the Pacific Northwest?

The Seattle Police Department says they are constantly training officers to handle an active shooter.

But, crisis experts say it’s not just first responders who should prepare – the rest of us should as well.

“I don’t think Seattle is any more or less vulnerable,” said crisis expert Jesus Villahermosa.

He says what happened in Nevada could change the game plan for first responders.

“This guy has just opened Pandora’s Box,” says Villahermosa. “This has completely changed the way these guys think and I’m very concerned about that.”

“There’s no question that an event like that would overwhelm almost any community,” said Dr. Eileen Bulger, a surgeon at Harborview / UW Medicine.

Harborview is just one of the hospitals across Puget Sound that train and prepare for mass casualty incidents.

From natural disasters to deadly shootings, hospital staff regularly plan and practice for whatever could fill their emergency rooms.

“We are constantly preparing for such a thing, we hope it never happens,” Bulger said. "Whether any community can be totally prepared for that I don’t know but I think we’re doing our best to be prepared.”

Part of that training means teaching people who find themselves closest to tragedy what to do to keep serious injuries from becoming fatal. That includes training the public on how use auto defibrillators and bleeding control kits.

“We see these events recurring over and over again and it can happen in any community,” said Bulger. “So the community itself needs to be prepared. If you know CPR you should know how to control bleeding.”

SPD says they are watching closely what happens in Las Vegas. Depending on the facts of the mass shooting, they may change some of their preparation or operational tactics depending on what they learn.