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Drill at Stanford Stadium tests emergency response

Emergency personnel descended on Stanford as part of a drill testing campus procedures for stadium evacuation and a mass casualty incident.

L.A. Cicero A firefighter helps two 'victims' of a mock explosion at the Stadium while an observer from Palo Alto Fire Department looks on.

A firefighter helps two 'victims' of a mock explosion at the Stadium while an observer from Palo Alto Fire Department looks on.

Hundreds of volunteers, first responders, law enforcement and Stanford Hospital participated in an emergency drill on Wednesday to test Stanford's response plans for managing a critical incident at Stanford Stadium.

Twenty agencies from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties participated, including Palo Alto Police and Palo Alto Fire.

The drill, which took place between noon and 2 p.m., simulated an explosion and mass casualty scenario and tested evacuation procedures, emergency medical response, communications and coordination among officials and agencies.

"The exercise was a great opportunity for us to practice interagency collaboration and communication," said Stanford Police Chief Laura Wilson. "The planning process gave us the ability to review procedures long before the day of the exercise.  The exercise itself confirmed for us what works well and what needs to be fine tuned."

The drill began with volunteers being assigned different roles – from fans watching a football game to a visitor trying to bring prohibited items into the stadium to a father searching for his child. Other volunteers were given the role of victims, suffering everything from a heart attack to shrapnel wounds.

The Stanford football team participated in the drill, playing on the field as volunteer fans watched from the stands.

L.A. CiceroDeputies Carrie DeVlugt and Eric Fenton continue the investigation with scent-detecting dog, Hope, in the Stanford Stadium concourse.

Deputies Carrie DeVlugt and Eric Fenton continue the investigation with scent-detecting dog, Hope, in the Stanford Stadium concourse.

As fans cheered on the team, the emergency simulation began with initial reports coming into police that a gunman was spotted at the stadium. Soon afterward, there was a blast causing casualties and an announcement to evacuate the stadium.

Kathy Harris, a public safety program manager who planned the exercise, said the components of the drill were identified long before the Boston Marathon emergency and the Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport. The scenario was designed to test multiple procedures, including the need to change the command post in the middle of a response and to react to an unstable situation.

"This was not a reaction to anything but part of our routine pro-active emergency planning," she said.

Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns said response to emergencies must be second nature.

"Rather than waiting for something you have to lean in and anticipate," Burns said.

Stanford's Office of University Communications also used the drill to test its strategies for relaying information to the media, family, friends and the Stanford community.

Stanford Hospital set up a command center staffed by about 50 hospital personnel, from security and logistics people to public information officers and medical support. They prepared to receive up to 30 victims from the stadium scenario.

As part of the drill, emergency responders cared for victims at the stadium and practiced sorting patients by most critically injured to then shuttle them to area hospitals, including Stanford Hospital.

University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said Stanford regularly practices emergency procedures as part of its commitment to the safety and security of the Stanford community. Drills have included tabletop discussions, real-time simulations and live events, such as the scenario on Wednesday.