People often look upon first responders as heroic. They rush towards danger when other people might run away. And the physical demands of being a first responder are undeniable. First responders are in charge of patient maneuvering debris, breaking down barriers, and patient transport. There's even a type of "carry" named after the fireman.
Everyday Emergency Medical Services (EMS) responders provide an important service in treating and transporting patients with minor injuries up to serious, life-threatening conditions. While highly trained and skilled, neither the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), nor the Paramedic was ever meant to be an expert in mass casualty incidents such as an active shooter event. Just as police units have regular patrol and also SWAT, medical responders also need specialized response teams.
Rescue Task Forces (RTF) were created to respond to the immediate need of first responders for a more coordinated and streamlined response to mass casualty incidents, such as mass shootings. When multiple emergency response units are on a scene at the same time, coordination is key to ensuring both patient and provider health. RTFs provide this coordination along with preplanned protocols to promote optimal outcomes. While RTFs have greatly improved mass casualty response, they are not without some challenges.
Active shooters want to cause chaos. This chaos quickly spreads beyond victims and bystanders and can affect first responders too. When the key to saving lives is a fast response, there is no time to stop and wonder who is in charge. This need is why Rescue Task Forces were created, to streamline responses, coordinate multiple groups and facilitate faster care and treatment of victims.
Disaster preparedness is critical to ensure an effective response when natural or human-initiated disasters strike. Depending on the type of incident, agencies involved can include local authorities, state government, and federal agencies. Disasters such as flooding, storm destruction, earthquakes and volcanoes may cause widespread damage, injuries and death. Moreover, mass casualty incidents, such as the 2017 concert shooting in Las Vegas, are just as deadly and the emergency planning aides in providing the appropriate response.
Mass casualties require mass coordination by first responders. One of the most vital areas of this coordination in the treatment of victims is triage. Fortunately, experienced triage experts have been working to improve specialized response protocols to ensure that treatment is prioritized by those who need life-saving care first, while also improving the transportation times and safety of all involved. It is important that first responders stay up to date on the latest triage tactics for active shooter and mass casualty incidents. These tactics are designed to increase efficiency and determine the people who need help the most.
Emergency response often falls into distinct categories that naturally designate a situational lead based on the circumstances. For example, the fire department will typically take the lead when responding to a house fire, the police force generally is placed in command during an assault, and overdoses or mental health emergency responses are often led by the paramedics.But mass shootings are different.
Police are under significant pressure with the rise of mass casualty and active shooter incidents. Combatting an increase in both violence and public visibility, these first responders are expected to quickly secure a scene with minimal harm to bystanders. This response is expected to happen on an extremely quick timetable. In situations such as active shooters, police must move beyond neighborhood peace-keeping to act as tactical responders and disaster experts.
Mass casualty incidents perpetrated by active shooters are showing a disturbing upward trend. Statistics from 2009 to 2018 illustrate an increase in the number and severity of active shooter incidents.
Emergency responders don't get to pick the location of an accident. One call may be in a first-floor ranch home with level sidewalks, while the next is on the side of a 5-lane highway. Another call may involve an active shooter, a fire response, or a fall off a bridge. EMS workers need to be ready for any event, where quick-thinking and adaptation are key to survival.