As the tragic Colorado mass shooting reminds us, EMS providers can never be too prepared for active shooter incidents. Does your agency have a plan in place for these types of incidents?
People of Colorado are again shocked devastated by yet another mass shooting in our beautiful state. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and the first responders who experienced this senseless act of violence in our Colorado community. Below are some lesson Littleton Fire Rescue learned from the 1999 Columbine High School shootings.
Tactical decisions made by first-arriving responders in the early minutes of any large-scale incident must be flexible, and multiple incident action plans (IAPs) should quickly be developed and revised as more information becomes available. Early information is usually unclear and often conflicting.
Unified incident command should be set up immediately on arrival of any multi-agency response to control freelancing and coordinate rescue and mitigation efforts. Incident commanders should establish primary and secondary staging areas early into the incident to control the flow of resources into the scene.
Communications is the key to success or failure in most large-scale incidents. Communications and channel assignments can pose problems in a multiple-agency incident unless a regional communication plan has been developed and tested to ensure interagency compatibility.
MCIs can easily overwhelm responders who are untrained and unprepared, potentially costing lives. Preplanning, MCI tabletop exercises, use of color-coded command vests and practical drills can reduce confusion during a real incident. MCI training builds a foundation for how responders will perform at a real incident, and drills will reveal flaws in your agency’s Incident Action Plan (IAP) or standard operating procedures.
Acts of random violence will continue to occur in schools, malls, churches and other public venues across the United States. Emergency responders may find themselves in the crosshairs of perpetrators or terrorists, as they did at Columbine. Shortly after Columbine, Littleton Fire Rescue (LFR) developed a Tactical Emergency Medical Support team. Fifteen tactically trained and outfitted LFR paramedics, trained by the Department of Defense, now deploy with local SWAT teams to provide medical support to each SWAT mission and humanitarian aid to victims of violent crime.
After the dust settles in the aftermath of these incidents are communities in shock and grief stricken. First responders can experience post-traumatic stress for years to come. Some may leave the service. This is where true leadership steps in. Take care of your responders and their families. Reach out to others who have gone through this type of incident and trauma for advice and direction. There are no roadmaps but people care. We are here for you!
Wayne Zygowicz, EMS Chief – Littleton Fire Rescue – Littleton, Colorado
JEMS Medical Editor Edward T. Dickinson, MD, NREMT-P, FACEP, provided us with his top 5 tips for coordinating your preplanning efforts with area hospitals:
1. Do early notification to hospitals, including non trauma centers, to be able to mobilize internal resources.
2. Roll-call hospitals to see how many critical and non-critical patients each can take.
3. Activate hospital MCI/external disaster protocol early.
4. Remember that hospital security and pastoral care involvement is critical.
5. Prepare for press onslaught with an identified hospital public information officer (PIO).