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Home > Topics > EMS Training
April 29, 2014

Instructor sets off grenade in drill; blows eardrum of EMT student

Concerns over “blatant disregard for safety” in drill meant to scare students into action

By EMS1 Staff

REDDING, Calif. — A Shasta College instructor teaching a basic EMT class faces scrutiny for setting off an explosive device that blew out a student’s eardrum, causing it to bleed.

KRCR News reports Heather Chinn no longer has hearing in her right ear after the instructor set off a CO2 grenade during training for an active-shooter scenario. The drill was meant to scare the 45 students into action, but instead caused the injury.

Specialists suspect she will suffer permanent hearing loss, but her prognosis is still uncertain.

College administrators haven’t disclosed whether the instructor is still involved with the school.

A former infantryman who fought in Iraq and has experience handling explosives, was taking a different EMT training course. He spoke out about the incident, saying the mock scenario had the potential to be effective, but was poorly handled with “blatant disregard for the safety of students.”

“It was probably one of the most inappropriate things I’ve seen in a classroom setting,” said former Army Sgt. Justin Day.

Comments
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Erik Norman Feyling Erik Norman Feyling Tuesday, April 29, 2014 2:47:35 PM Being in the EMS/Fire fields here in Redding Ca, I just wonder what exactly the instructor was thinking. Know your training implements before you use them. Blatant disregard for safety using a device like that in an enclosed area in close proximity to students. I'm sure it was accidental, but devices like that used in senarios, are generally handled by professionals. It's unfortunate that this occurred, both for the injured student and the instructor at fault. You have to wonder what quals the instructor had that made him ansubject expert in the use of training/equipment with said device. I would think that the use of such training tactics would have to be previously approved by Shasta Junior College. Heart was probably in the right place, just used a bad idea for motivation. Kind of shocked by this one.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014 4:47:40 PM Do the words "bonehead stunt" come to mind? I don't think it had anything to do with "heart" but a whole lot to do with unadulterated stupidity. I have attended many Active Shooter trainings and not once did they have to blow up something to get my attention. Scaring someone into action is a good way to get people injured or killed, as seen here. If the instructor is this reckless with safety in the classroom I can only imagine what he/she does in the field. I hope that the student is able to recover her hearing, but blown eardrums can be very bad, and result in permanent hearing loss.
Lori Jean Lynk Lori Jean Lynk Wednesday, April 30, 2014 12:28:59 AM I cannot imagine that Shasta College ever sanctioned this kind of training.
Lisa Sheryl Kissel Lisa Sheryl Kissel Wednesday, April 30, 2014 8:44:08 AM What an idiot ! I went to study EMT basic at Los AngelesValley College And Glendale City College . Never heard of such a thing!!
Chris Strattner Chris Strattner Wednesday, April 30, 2014 9:06:16 AM Slow down budpaine. Proper "active shooter" training SHOULD use the sounds associated with active continuing violence (like explosions and gunfire) as triggers for action. Absent the sounds of violence prompting action, emergency responders should treat scenes as either post-shootings or barricaded subjects. The tactics for dealing with both of those are, and should be, very different than tactic for the immediate response to an active continuing violence event. Training students by creating scenarios in which noise plays a significant role, especially as a prompt for action, is perfectly valid and is properly repeated around the country hundreds of times per year. Noise is also useful in "stress inoculation" drills. Having students perform their skills and make judgment calls under adverse (loud) conditions in training so that when faced with real-world challenging scenes they possess the calmness and confidence required for success is excellent high-end training. All EMS personnel should be familiar with and drill on TECC guidelines and, like most EMS skills, practicing in scenarios is one of the best ways to improve proficiency. Noise can and should be an integral part of learning to differentiate between a Diresct Threat environment and an Indirect Threat environment. That being said, it is not OK to seriously injure students during training, it seems like something went a bit sideways during this evolution and I wish nothing but the best for the injured student - she deserves a full speedy recovery. But to wholesale condemn the use of noise as a training aid because one drill went badly is wrong. Last bit of my soapbox goes to the headline writer: a grenade is something that produces shrapnel. Noise Flash Diversion Devices (NFDDs) and CO2 noise cartridges are not grenades. Words matter - professional
Erik Norman Feyling Erik Norman Feyling Wednesday, April 30, 2014 10:01:06 AM I know who the instructor is, and it blows me away that this indeviduals would have made such a grievous error in judgement. However, he was the first person that came to mind when I heard of the incident and my suspicions were validated by someone with direct contact to the incident.
Erik Norman Feyling Erik Norman Feyling Wednesday, April 30, 2014 10:15:05 AM An EMT basic initial course is not the place for Mil Spec flash bang. Unless you are in the military or with LE/SWAT, what is the purpose? Most EMS/Fire personnel don't have the authority to enter a scene until it is secured by LE and made safe (ie. scene safety), unless you are a CQB trained medic attached to a SWAT team or Spec Ops LE. Training with "noise" can not prepare you for real combat/hostile situations. When you are in the real shit, dynamics change. People who you think are high speed low drag can freeze up, and people you wouldn't expect can be steadfast and on point. Every situation is different, and everyone reacts different to stimuli. It can change from event to event. An injured or dead EMT/Firefighter helps no one. Personal/scene safety is paramount. Just my opinion, having served in Iraq and having been in fire and EMS since 1995.
Chris Strattner Chris Strattner Wednesday, April 30, 2014 6:47:52 PM I think your reply brings out some really great points that we need to be talking about within the EMS service generally. We train our folks to have a mindset that “scene safety” takes precedence over everything else. I believe we should be doing a better job of educating our rookies than that, and I think we should be acknowledging that the job of a medic is not safe. We need to recognize and teach that medics should be assessing situations on a larger scale, recognizing the risks and making solid risk/reward judgment calls. First, no scene is safe. Anyone who has been a medic for more than about 5 minutes can tell you about a call where things went south in a hurry. We walk into situations every day not knowing what’s really going on until we get there. Most of the time, it’s fairly close to what we were told by the dispatcher, but once in a while, a crew gets taken hostage by a guy who is faking a heart attack because he wants his electric power turned back on. To suggest that we make sure a scene is “safe,” teaches our rookies that they do a single assessment, enter and let their guard down. We know that isn’t how the real world works - we’re be all over rookies who didn’t reassess their patients - so let’s stop teaching a fiction that the world is safe and instead teach them to constantly reassess for safety. Second, we need to acknowledge that we already accept risks regularly. We accept a risk when we carry a semiconscious patient down the stairs. We work to mitigate the risk by restraining the patient, lifting properly, making sure the stairs are free of debris, but there is always a risk going down stairs. If we say that we only work in “safe” environments, then we should say “carrying someone down the stairs is dangerous” and leave them on an upper floor, but that’s crazy, and we would’t be doing our jobs and we’d have a lot of corpses in upstairs bedrooms if we did that. Instead, we recognize the risk, assess it, do what is necessary to mitigate it and recognize that the risk to us is outweighed by the good (or bad) outcome for the patient. We might choose to wait for a lift assist on a heavy patient that has a knee problem rather than accept the risk, but we might accept the risk if that same patient had a complex airway management problem and needed things only the ER could provide. In the real world we recognize, mitigate and accept some risks. OK, so you are thinking that moving patients down stairs is a pretty lame example of a risk. Fair enough. We do the same thing every day in way more dangerous environments than just stairs. To an average person, it seems crazy to slowly stroll down the center of a four lane highway, yet we respond to motor vehicle collisions and do just that every single day. We try to minimize the risk of getting hit by a car by using equipment like our well lit, brightly painted trucks and our ANSI vests, we stay heads up and watch traffic, and we ask for help from the police in closing down pieces of the road. If the car is wrecked it is almost by definition unstable so we ask fire/rescue to crib it or cut it and we go to work taking care of our patients. And we weigh the risks against the outcomes for our patients. We are more likely to climb into an unstable wreck on a bad icy road to open an apneic patient’s airway than we are to apply a KED to an otherwise apparently uninjured person in the same kind of crash. I’m not suggesting we teach our rookies to rush head-long into crash scenes, I’m saying stop telling them that we don’t work unless the scene is safe. Instead, we tell them “Hey, a crash scene is never 100% safe. It’s dangerous inside wrecked cars in the roadway. You need to acknowledge the risks, do what you can to make those risks as small as possible and then weigh the risks against the potential outcome for the patient. If you don’t want to accept that this job carries some risk, you can always find a job as an accountant.” And that brings me to violence. Once we accept that no scene is really safe and that we should making good judgment calls on whether the outcome for the patient is worth the risk, we can start talking about EMS response to continuing active violence events. We can respond to these events in a few different ways. We can do it the old way - wait around outside until the police declare the scene safe, go in and treat whoever has managed to remain alive. That was a pretty frustrating and not so effective method of doing things in Columbine (if you don’t know the story of William David Sanders, the science teacher who bled to death over the course of hours because the scene wasn’t safe, you should Google it now. And make sure you catch a look at the pictures of the medics outside the school waiting arms folded and frustrated beyond belief.) Or we can try to encourage the police to form evacuation teams and bring the patients out to us, but that means that they aren’t doing “cop” stuff – searching, securing, engaging, arresting, because we are asking them to pull double duty. Problem with that is we run out of cops quick and they will get hung up being litter-bearers and slow their own forward motion, when what they need to be doing is being the police. Or, we can do what Arlington, LA County and more and more places are doing: using the Rescue Task Force model. The police learned from Columbine that waiting for SWAT gave the bad guys more time to kill innocent people. They recognized the tactic was flawed and changed it, so today “active shooters” are confronted by the first responding patrol officers, they don’t wait for SWAT to come make it safe. Now it’s time for medics to learn a similar lesson – if we wait for the police to make the scene 100% safe, savable innocent people are going to die. And since we already know that we accept risks, and we already use other agencies to minimize those risks (see my car wreck examples above), we can come up with a plan that minimizes the risk but takes into account the risk to us versus theoutcome to the patients. That plan is called the Rescue Task Force: where after the initial threat has been suppressed but before the structure is 100% “cleared,” we push a couple medics escorted into a “warm” zone – not super SWAT tactical medics, line medics from the first and second arriving ambulances – so that they can find and fix those heavy arterial bleeders that will die quickly without our care, and begin the process of triage. The medics should be trained in the principles of TECC which describe what kind of care a patient gets based on the level and likelihood of a continued threat to the patient and medic and includes skills to recognize and minimize threats. As I said, this isn’t something that should be reserved for the tactical community. It’s something we can and should teach to every single EMT-Basic that comes out of rookie school, because unfortunately we don’t get to decide which ambulance is going to be first on scene at the next multiple shooting/continuing active violence event. I applaud the instructor of this EMT-Basic school for teaching (I assume) his students TECC and RTF style tactics along recognition of threats. The injured student is, as I said in my previous post, incredibly unfortunate and I wish her nothing but the best, but to condemn this kind of training for the EMT-B is not in the best interests of our patients or our profession.
Eric Woods Eric Woods Thursday, May 01, 2014 10:44:59 AM As an Instructor I would have to say that was pretty stupid for him to do that. If you are considering doing something like that then you MUST have permission from the School before hand. Which he obviously didn't even bother requesting. Think before you act!
Erik Norman Feyling Erik Norman Feyling Thursday, May 01, 2014 11:20:28 AM I'm in agreement, things do go sideways... Have been in a few less than optimal situations in my time. The training in question is important once you are attached associated with an agency/company. My only beef is that when learning in an initial EMT B course, the material alone is overwhelming for a lot of students. There are better ways to stimulate a response or to invoke a sense of urgency. Real life senarios have there place in the EMS/Fire community...that is a no brainier. There is always the opertunity to be in a unique hostile situation in the field...I think anyone having worked in the field would agree. Your points are well received and I agree with your opinion. To me, this particular incident just screams "risk V.S. reward. A lot of risk with little to no reward in this situation. If the students were informed prior and all applicable safety measures were followed given that this device can generate between 90 and 140 decibels, it could have been extremely effective. I just found the time and place/students involved were inappropriate. Had it gone off without a hitch , we wouldn't be discussing it, so we reason with and articulate why this was an epic fail, so as to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future. Great discussion!
Chris Strattner Chris Strattner Thursday, May 01, 2014 1:53:56 PM Sounds like agree more than not. I really appreciate thoughtful discussion with professionals who take this service seriously. Be safe out there in Cali, brother,
Bryan Robinson Bryan Robinson Saturday, July 26, 2014 10:13:06 PM Went threw the same class this happened in the previous semester. The active shooter part of the class was well planned. The noise made was from a air soft gun not a military grade flash bang. This is to prepare Ems for the possibility of having to work during a possible shooter. It is getting the emt's ready so they are safe. I know the quality of instructors that teach that class. Safety first..
Bryan Robinson Bryan Robinson Saturday, July 26, 2014 10:17:32 PM I know for the previous semester it had to be approved by the school, campus security was there, local police were notified, the building was closed to all other students. This was a planned approved event that was very helpful.

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