The guns looked real. The alarms and radio communications and triage stickers -- even the black ones reading "DEAD" -- were real.
Only the danger was not.
Edward Hospital and the Naperville police and fire departments conducted a drill Thursday morning to go over emergency procedures in the event of a shooting and practice a quick, complete and orderly response.
With 120 participants, the exercise was much larger than typical training drills, so the hospital made sure to alert all real-life patients that the activities in Short-Stay Unit 2 on the first floor were only for practice.
"Unfortunately, active shooter situations are a real threat, so we have to prepare," Edward Hospital CEO Bill Kottmann said.
A drill this large is not specifically mandated for the hospital's accreditation, said Patti Ludwig-Beymer, vice president and chief nursing officer. But coming together for group exercises helps hospitals and first responders ensure their actions will be coordinated in a world where violence can strike at any time, said Mike Anders, Naperville police deputy chief of patrol.
"Hopefully we impressed everyone that we're prepared," Anders said.
The drill began at 8:13 a.m. when a masked shooter named Mike, played by a Naperville police SWAT officer, became enraged at the doctor who gave him bad news about his father.
During a quiet moment in the Short-Stay unit when nurses were preparing a patient for a radiology procedure, Mike stalked down the hall, yelling. "Dr. Wilson, where are you? Where'd you go? Somebody better answer me!"
No one did. Patients and nurses ran into rooms and stayed in place. Then Mike started shooting. Blanks fired from his fake blue handgun, smelling of smoke as they fell to the floor.
By 8:20 a.m., the first police officers ran in and started seeking the shooter, asking victims slumped on the floor, "Where's the bad guy?" By 8:24 cops radioed to tell backup they'd found the suspect in Room 10 and he had barricaded himself there.
Officers then started helping unsteady victims, played by paramedic students, down the hallway and into a triage area in the courtyard. With a "safety corridor" set up, paramedics stormed in, wearing SWAT team-like gear the fire department bought a year ago to allow them to step into dangerous situations and begin providing medical care immediately.
Members of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support team entered the scene at 8:31 a.m. and triaged patients who were too hurt to walk, loading them onto stretchers or tarps.
"Past training didn't always have paramedics going into the hot zone," Anders said once the drill concluded. "I thought that came together very well."
By 8:34, police negotiators learned the shooter wanted to talk with Dr. Wilson. On their radios, they reported Mike was getting emotional about the people he'd shot, hoping they weren't dead. As negotiations continued at 8:51 a.m., police told the shooter three or four people were shot and no one had died, assuring him he wouldn't be facing life in prison.
In truth, within the drill, five victims were classified as dead and 20 others were hurt.
Police coaxed Mike the shooter out of a small patient room and took him into custody. At 9:01 a.m. they walked him out of the unit's main hallway. Two minutes later the drill was over and the employees practicing how they'd handle a crisis came out of character.
Probably the most unrealistic element of the drill was a "baby" injured but not killed in the shooting, which was actually a gray inflatable doll that looked more like an alien than an infant.
And then there was a moment when a paramedic slapped a black "DEAD" triage sticker on an actor. "You don't have to smack it on him," a nearby drill observer said, and the supposedly "DEAD" victim laughed.
Otherwise, the roughly 50-minute exercise maintained its authenticity and was the closest to a real shooting scenario that emergency department Dr. Daryl Wilson has experienced.
The shooter used Wilson's real name and was really looking for him while the doctor hid inside a utility closet, readying himself with a broom handle to swing and batteries to throw if the shooter were to find him.
"The hardest part for me was to stay hidden when I could hear people just outside the room who were injured and needed help," Wilson said.
But that's when he relied on his "run, hide, fight" training and remembered he had to avoid becoming a victim himself in order to eventually help other people. His actions were exactly what hospital leaders wanted to see.
Bethann Barbeau, director of the active shooter drill, said the exercise had been in the planning stages for a year and will be assessed with an after-action report.