DeKalb, Ill. -- Over the years, personnel with the City of DeKalb Fire Department have drilled for mass casualty incidents. They made everyone familiar with operations under unified command, and the role of an incident commander.
When they were toned out for the shooting at Northern Illinois University on Thursday afternoon, firefighters and paramedics quickly followed the script they'd practiced.
Several medic ambulances, a supervisor and engines were dispatched on the initial assignment, said Lt. Karl Froehlich, adding that the personnel came from the three DeKalb stations near the university.
As at the Virginia Tech shooting incident last spring, the responders didn't have a grasp at what they were about to encounter.
"We had no idea of the magnitude," he said. "Things escalated quickly."
The units reported to a central staging area. From there, they were dispatched by the incident commander to various areas on campus.
Mutual aid companies were requested early on, which brought about 20 ambulances as well as mass casualty trailers, extra squads and engine companies to the incident.
Another mutual aid company responded into the city to handle any other 9-1-1 calls. Fortunately, there was only one.
Establishing a main triage area was impossible because the injured students scattered when they were confronted by the gunman in their classroom.
The incident was under control within 40 minutes when campus police verified the gunman had shot and killed himself.
A unified command post was established near the incident, and leaders there included Fire Chief Lanson Russell as well as the chief of the NIU campus police and others.
"Things went smoothly. There were no communications issues. We've practiced it, and everything came together."
That command center remained open Friday afternoon.
In the near future, personnel will probably hold a critique of the incident.