For the first time, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department on Sunday, Oct. 20, will engage in a large-scale active-shooter training with Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department.

The drill will take place from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Westfield Mall, 72-840 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. The operation will simulate a mass-casualty incident and test police, fire, hospitals and private businesses, a Cal Fire news release said. Volunteers will take on roles of victims and bystanders.

Signs around the mall will alert the public to the drill, which will include emergency vehicles grouped together and traveling to hospitals.

Cal Fire has drilled with other agencies, including the Indio Police Department in 2018, and has done some smaller training exercises with the sheriff’s department, said Capt. Fernando Herrera, a Cal Fire spokesman. Some cities’ police and fire departments, such as Riverside, have been training together for years.

Sheriff’s officials have said that they needed time to develop a training curriculum.

Cal Fire firefighters now carry ballistic vests, helmets and other safety gear. Firefighters throughout the country are prepared to enter locations within shooting scenes — accompanied by law enforcement — where a shooter is no longer active and victims lay injured.

This proactive approach began after officials realized that some victims of the 1999 Columbine High shooting in Colorado may have bled to death as police surrounded the school and attempted to contact the killers, who had committed suicide. The protocol now is for paramedics to enter what are known as “warm zones” while avoiding the “hot zones.”

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