Raleigh, N.C. — Friday’s mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school brought back haunting memories for WakeMed’s CEO, who was instrumental in implementing a disaster response for the Columbine shooting 13 years ago.
“I’ve spent a lifetime, personally, in emergency services,” said Dr. William Atkinson.
For 10 years, Atkinson chaired the Organized Crime Task Force for Aurora, Colo., and was instrumental in implementing the disaster response that went into effect during the mass shooting at Columbine High School.
“It’s very difficult, I think emotionally and mentally, to deal with anyone that’s been injured,” he said. “You just have to prepare in every community in this nation to either deal with manmade emergencies or natural emergencies.”
Atkinson said he suspects first responders were as prepared as they could've been for a situation like the one in Connecticut. Many hospitals and large institutions conduct mock drills.
While the scene is still active or the situation ongoing, first responders must do their best to keep calm, whether in the field or at the hospital.
“You owe it to the community to practice and do those things on a routine basis, so when that does happen, your normal operations can continue to go on,” Atkinson said.
Counselors are usually available for children and teachers in a situation like Connecticut’s. It's also likely counselors will be available for first responders as well.