With no known motive, the "suspects" began shooting. Mayhem erupted inside West High School about 8 a.m. Saturday. All police knew was there were multiple suspects, several students and teachers inside and a possibility of casualties.

Salt Lake City Police, SWAT, Fire, Bomb Squad and other first responders arrived at the scene. They made plans, strategically swept the school and extricated one suspect. Students were herded out of the school to a triage unit where they were treated for multiple gun and shrapnel wounds.

Fortunately, it was all just a drill. Saturday, West High School became the host of a Salt Lake City Public Safety Field Training Exercise. The drill was initiated to train and prepare emergency personnel to respond quickly and efficiently to a large-scale public safety crisis.

"We wanted to make this as realistic as possible," said Detective Jeff Bedard. After events like Trolley Square, Bedard said the city is doing what it can to prepare for any future similar events and events like this are a good training ground.

"We can't put a price tag on how valuable this is to our first responders."

Bedard explained the simulation as a mock event where an "active shooter enters the school and we receive the call." Everything is a surprise. None of the participants know what is happening. They have to diagnose the situation and make the calls on the spot. Everything is done in "real-time," meaning that no one is waiting for their cue to be called into the school — they are called in from their departments just as they would be in a real crisis.

Of the first wave of casualties, five were students, several others were officers. Taura Escandon, a senior at West High School, described her experience inside the school. "It was fun. It would have been really scary if it was happening in real life."

Escandon and at least four other students were in lock-down in their classroom when they heard shots fired outside the door.

Maddy Grauger, also a senior, was critically "shot" in the chest. Escandon, Mercedes Martinez and Juan Gomez carried Grauger out of the building and rushed her, along with another wounded classmate, to the triage located on the outskirts of the campus. Paramedics quickly assessed the students' conditions and treated Grauger on the scene before sending her to the hospital.

The students expressed their approval of the simulation and explained that it was a learning experience for them as well.


E-MAIL: cmadsen@desnews.com