Emergency medical responders and law enforcement professionals trained Monday and Tuesday for one of the worst scenarios possible: an active shooter.
“This training is designed to prepare us to render medical aid in a shooting situation much sooner than we are currently able to,” said Eliza Shaw, training coordinator for Centre LifeLink EMS, which hosted the South Central Mountains Regional Task Force training initiative.
Task Force Director Phil Lucas said the training is beneficial to both emergency medical responders and law enforcement because it helps them establish expectations and learn each other’s procedures.
“Before Columbine, agencies have always been trained separately. EMS was required to stand away from the scene, where it’s safe. Law enforcement would wait for a SWAT team to show up and then they’d deal with the situation. Unfortunately, that could take hours. That was exemplified in the Columbine incident.”
After the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, Lucas said, strides were taken to get emergency medical responders on the scene quicker to assist the injured, with the goal of saving lives.
In our world, it’s that first 10 minutes that makes such a difference in saving someone’s life. With the coordinated response with law enforcement and EMS, they’re able to provide that care.
South Central Mountains Regional Task Force Director Phil Lucas
“What we’re encouraging now in recognition of all of these incidents, is that EMS can respond with law enforcement who are providing protection for them. This can happen in the first few minutes of the incident so that they can gain access to patients, give them initial care and get them to a trauma center, in the first hour, the golden hour,” Lucas said.
The “golden hour” can make the difference between life and death, Lucas said.
“In our world, it’s that first 10 minutes that makes such a difference in saving someone’s life. With the coordinated response with law enforcement and EMS, they’re able to provide that care,” said Lucas.
Tuesday’s training sought to exercise the minds of those charged with saving lives and keeping the public safe.
“This training prepares us for an active shooter situation. Instead of us just going in to eliminate the threat, it allows us to let emergency medical services to go in with us and care for the wounded. We used to take EMS in after we eliminated the shooter, but we can now take them in much sooner,” said Patton Township police Officer Tom Snyder.
“The whole reason for us to take EMS with us is to save lives. That was the point of programs like SWAT,” said State College police Officer JJ Wolfe.
State College police Lt. Chris Fishel walked teams of officers and EMS through several active shooter simulations.
In each of the simulations, teams of law enforcement and EMS were asked to enter the Centre LifeLink facility, find the injured individuals, treat them, communicate a coordinated effort to secure the perimeter and, ultimately, remove the wounded.
This training prepares us for an active shooter situation. Instead of us just going in to eliminate the threat, it allows us to let emergency medical services to go in with us and care for the wounded. We used to take EMS in after we eliminated the shooter, but we can now take them in much sooner.
Patton Township police Officer Tom Snyder
The training proved to be mostly about time management and effective communication.
“To a large degree, we let them figure the field problem out for themselves, so rather than us directing them on what they need to do, we let them sort it out. One of the goals here is for them to work as two separate teams, together, based on the circumstances,” Fishel said.
He followed each simulation with a review of what was done correctly and where work is still needed.
According to the FBI, 1,043 people were either killed or injured in active shooter cases between 2000 and 2013. Of those, 486 were killed and 557 were wounded.