There have always been risks with any emergency response — accidents, infections, even patient outbursts, but the scenes with active shooters, explosives, vehicles running through pedestrian traffic, knife attacks and more violence seem to be making the news more frequently in recent times. First responders, Police, EMS and Fire, show up to “save the day”, but can quickly become entangled in the carnage left behind.
It’s a simple fact, we have no way of knowing when or if a violent mass casualty incident could happen in our response area. We need to prepare, and that preparation should be more than a simple classroom lecture or watching a grainy film. There are several agencies who have conducted realistic inter-agency drills for situations like active shooters (look at YouTube for some examples), but most agencies haven’t.
It’s time we make sure we are all prepared. All agencies should assess their local demographics and structures to see what kinds of “attacks” could happen. Schools, malls, busy office buildings and open areas where crowds gather could be targets. Even an ambulance headquarters can be potential targets. Responders need to be aware of areas where an armed perpetrator could hide. What are the layouts and vantage points, and what are the possible weaknesses of a response? Working together, Law Enforcement, EMS and Fire need to formulate a plan of action… and DRILL.
Realistic scenarios with moulage, screams, the noise of “gunfire”, lifeless and wounded “bodies” and inter-agency response will do more to prepare our crews than classroom lectures. (The first time I ever attended a realistic drill with all of the accoutrements, there were responders who were actually moved to tears as patients were black tagged and others screamed in “pain” — it was realistic enough to make each of us act as if it were real.)
Unfortunately, the likelihood of being involved in an active shooter incident, hostage taking, or entering someplace that is booby-trapped is more possible now than years ago. While EMS and Fire used to stand by in an assumed safe zone until the danger is contained, there are no guarantees that, without previous study, an area is truly safe. In the meanwhile, as Law Enforcement secures an area, people bleed to death.
Nowadays when the proper training is in place, EMS may enter an active (warm) zone with Law Enforcement in order to begin treatment of critically injured victims. Preparation is vital to preserve life and reduce the time a perpetrator has to barricade himself and continue his killing spree. You can download a Rapid Response Model PowerPoint presentation at https://bit.ly/2HyXgEr There is another helpful .pdf presentation at https://bit.ly/2HUd0VL These presentations will help improve training.
All potential threats should be evaluated at least once a year and incorporated into realistic drills. All agencies should have a plan in place for emergency response for mass-fatality incidents if the need ever arises.