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Iowa City officials discuss disaster preparedness and game day safety

UIHC improved emergency response preparedness by increasing city-wide access to tourniquets, a device for stopping the flow of blood. It can be used as an immediate triage mechanism for victims.

This Saturday's University of Iowa homecoming game will bring thousands together to cheer on the Hawkeyes.

For some, it might be the first large gathering since hearing news on the Las Vegas Massacre.

Security officials said while they do not anticipate major disasters to take place in any occasion, they know the city is not immune to tragedy. In 1991, Iowa City residents were left shaken by a shooting on campus. Five died on the day of the shooting, including the shooter, and two others died as a result of their injuries.

"I was working as a paramedic at the time when the call came in and it said, 'Shots fired'," said UI Hospitals and Clinics Emergency Response Coordinator Mike Hartley. "Even the EMS crew and firefighters were going, 'Is this real'?"

Hartley said the reality today is much greater as mass shootings become more common. This continues to motivate their clinic to improve preparedness.

"We need to keep practicing, and keep honing our plans, and our processes to make sure we can do it as efficiently as possible because you never know what is going to happen," he said.

Particularly on game days, emergency response officials said they plan measure like increased security on site.

While they would never disclose the details of their disaster preparedness plan, Johnson County Emergency Management Coordinator Dave Wilson said they put in a lot of safety measures in ways that are less obvious.

"There's a lot of invisible things that we do that most people aren't going to notice, and that is what we bank on is that invisible difference," he said.

Wilson said no plan can anticipate every attack.

UIHC officials said they are prepared just in case. Already this year, the emergency response team with the trauma unit practiced disaster preparedness three times this year.

"It takes a little bit to have all those people in place, but this is such a large facility. Most of the staff we need are here 24/7," said Hartley.

Hartley said the staff is ready to tend to a wide-scale tragedy like Vegas at a moment's notice.

"Virtually every night of the week, they're getting trauma cases [coming] in; now granted they're not mass casualty gunshot wounds, and things like that every night, but the same processes that they’re doing every day, kick in.”

As much as safety coordinators on game day rely on improving their plans to consistently tackle safety in and around the stadium, they also rely on Hawkeye fans to be on alert.

"We really are very dependent on crowdsourcing, and the public basically saying, 'Hey this doesn’t look right,’ or, ‘This person isn’t acting right.," said Wilson. "A lot of it comes down to see something, say something.”


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