Is Jax prepared for mass casualty event?

River City hasn't seen mass shooting like Colorado's since 1990

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's been 22 years since Jacksonville has seen a mass shooting like the one in Colorado on Friday.

In June 1990, 10 people, including the gunman, were shot and killed at the GMAC offices in Baymeadows. That put Jacksonville on alert, and emergency crews say they learned much that day on how to handle mass shootings.

"If we got a situation where there is a shooter, then law enforcement is in charge, as we want them to be," Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Chief Marty Senterfitt said. "They understand our needs. There are plans not only in the Fire Department, but with law enforcement on how to deal with that, how to get the quickest medical care to the victims and yet still secure the shooter. We don't talk about those plans, obviously. They are very much out there, and we practice them and we know what we are going to do in that situation."

"Our officers train for such events as this, and stand ready to defend and protect," Sheriff John Rutherford said in a statement. "We are blessed -- not only to have the committed men and women of JSO at the ready, but we are also strengthened by our regional security task force and the intelligence gathering and sharing done in concert with many other agencies."

Those plans are not only for shootings but also for severe accidents, such as the explosion that shook Jacksonville in 2007 when the T2 Laboratories Plant exploded, killing four people and injuring 32 others.

Times like these are also when local hospital emergency rooms come into play. Each hospital is put on alert and told to expect patients in mass casualty events.

All of the procedures have been practiced and reviewed. But now with talks of city budget cuts and taking away police and Fire-Rescue personnel, will that affect how emergency officials respond to these types of events?

"You know, I can't foresee a situation where cuts would get so deep to affect that kind of level of response," Senterfitt said. "Obviously, with these budget cuts, there are things that are being impacted. We are making sure those are ancillary services. Anything that deals with critical life safety will always be the No. 1 priority."

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