Sirens and gunfire filled the air Tuesday morning as first responders raced throughout Bossier Parish to save lives and put an end to coordinated attacks…Or at least that’s what they all practiced for.
First responders and emergency planners conducted the first ever parish wide disaster drill from 8 a.m. to noon.
Arranged by the Bossier Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), six incidents inspired by real life situations took place from locations such as the CenturyLink Center, Bossier Civic Center, Louisiana National Guard Armory and Benton Town Hall.
Active shooter scenarios, citizens wearing bomb vests, suspicious vehicles, and sniper attacks were all part of the exercise. More than 100 facilities went into lockdown as part of the exercise.
Emergency response vehicles, role players, hospitals, and other assets banded together to to stretch resources of various towns within Bossier and identify where to improve the parish’s emergency preparedness.
“There’s a bigger picture to this,” said Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Deputy Director Gene Barattini.
More than 1,200 responders participated in the drill, engaging 41 organizations.
“This is the largest drill we’ve ever undertaken in Bossier. I’m proud of what our people put together and accomplished this morning. There were some things we learned, but that’s why we do this,” said Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington.
The Bossier Civic Center scenario saw a crowd attacked by active shooters, and a bystander turned into an unwilling suicide bomber. This particular drill incorporated police response, EMTs, bomb squad, and more to help end the threat, secure the location, bring in emergency medical personnel, treat wounded, diffuse the bomb and more.
The organized chaos was meant to spread resources thin so the parish could inspect its response time and communication through the various agencies responsible.
“In these types of scenarios, communication is the main obstacle,” said Bossier City Public Information Officer Mark Natale.
“It stretched us,” said Sheriff Whittington. “We’ve never had this type of challenge and we’re going to learn from it.”