2018 Preparedness Summit Final Late-breaking Session—“Vegas Strong: A Community Moving from Tragedy to Resilience”

Jul 18, 2018

The final late-breaking session at the 2018 Preparedness Summit featured the leaders who facilitated the response and recovery of October’s mass casualty incident in Las Vegas, Nev. The Las Vegas shooting, carried out by a lone shooter, was unprecedented. The shooter unleashed more than 1,100 rounds (approximately 100 rounds per minute) from his window on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel toward concertgoers below in Las Vegas Village. The only silver lining of the incident was the two nearby hospitals—University Medical Center of Southern Nevada and Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center— happen to be level one and level two trauma facilities.

From the preparedness perspective, county and city agencies held a full-scale Family Assistance exercise in 2009 involving more than 300 participants and 43 organizations. In the midst of the response, they were able to use the exact same footprint used in the exercise. John Fudenberg, coroner, Clark County Office of the Coroner/Medical Examiner, said, “If we didn’t have that exercise, we would have had no idea how it would go.” Out of these exercises, partnerships developed between Public Health Preparedness and the Coroner/Medical Examiner Office, which were invaluable.

The second preparedness activity that contributed to a successful response was the establishment of the Unified Command and assignment of liaisons from participating agencies. Oftentimes when establishing incident command, agencies grapple with the decision of which entity is ultimately in charge. Without having a plan in advance of an incident, unnecessary chaos may ensue. Once Command is established, various sectors, including Family Assistance, can be setup and operational.

The Family Assistance Center was one of the first and most important components of the community’s recovery. Fudenberg explained, “When you can set up a Family Assistance Center and publish a number right away and have a person pick-up the phone at the end of the line, it brings a sense of calm to the community.”

A more long-term space where individuals could go for support called the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center (VSRC) was then established. The partnership from responders of mass shootings in Boston, Mass., and Orlando, Fla., helped Las Vegas set up the VSRC; the help was invaluable. Jeff Quinn, public health preparedness manager, Southern Nevada Health District, noted, “With each incident, we grow a little each time.” Quinn reminded the audience, “Public health and everything you do here really has lasting impacts on others.”

Quinn also prompted the audience to consider that “Everything in the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) and Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP,) we exercised it all. These capabilities are based on reality. One of the strengths of this conference is that it offers opportunities to discuss and improve capabilities that are based in reality.”

Additional strengths of the Las Vegas response and recovery efforts included: Agency coordination, an existing recovery framework, responder support, and business and community support.

Finally, the speakers emphasized the need for behavioral health services. Kevin Schiller, assistant county manager, Clark County, Nev., said, “As you look to the short, intermediate, and long-term recovery, we have to recognize that someone who may be okay today may not be okay six months from now.”

As Las Vegas continues on the path to long-term recovery, the VRSC sponsored Boston-qualifying Las Vegans to run at the 2018 Boston marathon, in solidarity.

The session ended with an emotional standing ovation in honor of the steadfast response to an overwhelming event.

Access 2018 Preparedness Summit Resources

  • Visit the Preparedness Summit website to stay up to date on when abstracts open for the 2019 Preparedness Summit and when to register.
  • To listen to audio recordings and access presentation slides of the plenary and late-breaking sessions, go to the Preparedness Summit website, click on the “Schedule of Events” tab to go to the full schedule. Log into your account by clicking “My Schedule” on the left column and click the audio icons next to each session.

Save the Date for the 2019 Preparedness Summit

Next year’s Preparedness Summit will take place March 26-29 in St. Louis, Mo.

The Preparedness Summit is the first and longest running national conference on public health preparedness. Since its beginning in 2006, NACCHO has taken a leadership role in convening a wide array of partners to participate in the summit; presenting new research findings, sharing tools and resources, and providing a variety of opportunities for attendees to learn how to implement model practices that enhance the nation’s capabilities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters and other emergencies.

We hope to see you there!


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