Local emergency responders review mass casualty response drill

La Crosse emergency responders say they’re “very pleased” with the results of the mass casualty response drill held at Central High School on June 11.

On Wednesday, leaders from area emergency response crews met to discuss what went right and what can be improved upon if a situation like a chemistry lab explosion happened for real.

“This was a tremendous opportunity to practice what’s called the ‘incident command system,’ which is a nationwide effort to have all response organizations manage their incidences in the same manor and in the same framework,” said La Crosse County Emergency Response Management Coordinator Keith Butler. “They did a phenomenal job. They had a unified command center established with representatives of all the entities who would be involved in this sort of a disaster and coordinate.”


Emergency responders from the La Crosse Police and Fire Departments, Tri-State Ambulance tested their response plans with the School District of La Crosse’s emergency plans. Butler said the event organizers were impressed with how quickly emergency responders were able to find all of the patients. They anticipated crews to find everyone within 40-45 minutes.

“They were able to rescue all the people in 20 minutes, including the ones we had hidden in closets and other places we thought would be hard to find,” Butler said.

The exercise also exposed a disconnect that Butler says needs to be addressed.

“We figured out that there is a disconnect between the school system keeping track of their students and staff following a disaster and the medical system who have patient confidentiality laws,” Butler said. “We’re trying to figure out how to marry those two together so we can keep accurate track of whose accounted for in an incident and whose been transported to hospitals. Right now, we don’t have all the answers.”

The next mass casualty response exercise will likely take place in La Crosse within three to four years.