BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — To this day, there are times when DeKalb Fire Department Battalion Chief Greg Hoyle can t believe the Feb. 14 shooting happened on the Northern Illinois University campus.
“But, it did, and it is not a matter of if this will happen again, but where and when,” Hoyle told local emergency medical technicians Wednesday during a presentation sponsored by the McLean County Area Emergency Medical Services System.
Knowing such tragedies will happen, the DeKalb Fire Department shares what it has learned, hoping others will be better prepared, he said.
Hoyle was driving around the NIU campus the afternoon of Feb. 14 when three “traumatized students jumped on my vehicle and told me there was a shooting at Cole Hall.”
On Feb. 14, former NIU student Steven Kazmierczak fired a shotgun and two handguns at students in a lecture hall in Cole Hall, killing five students and wounding 18 others before killing himself. Hundreds fled.
Hoyle radioed the information to his captain, Eric Hicks, and the fire department responded immediately to the incident.
Hoyle told the group about the difficulties of being the incident commander that day. The most difficult thing was managing different staff in different buildings, which was necessary because victims ran or were carried by friends to different locations around campus.
Hicks was in charge of triage at Cole Hall, and he told the group of the chaos there. Students had left their belongings behind when they fled, making it more difficult to verify the names of the patients who could not speak.
And the fire alarm sounded loudly in the building, making it difficult to talk to fellow responders.
KishHealth System EMS System Coordinator Joe Herrmann also shared the lessons Kishwaukee Community Hospital in DeKalb learned about managing calls from family and media and interacting with ambulance services that don t normally work with their hospital.
“All in all, though, things fell into place well,” Hoyle said. “Everyone had their A game on that day.”
Hoyle and his fellow speakers credited their training exercises for part of their success.
Only a few months before, they had conducted a mass casualty drill at the campus. Many of those on duty on Feb. 14 were ones who had key roles in that drill.
Also critical was the ability of all of the agencies involved to work together.
“Without the other agencies, we wouldn t have made it through the day,” said Hicks.
After the presentation, Greg Scott, director of the McLean County Area EMS System, said he hoped the presentation reinforced the messages his agency stresses: the need for training, working together, and having plans in place.