NC EMTs participate in active shooter training

High fidelity mannequins lay scattered in the grass behind the armory representing dying and desperate victims requiring EMTs’ help

By Colin Warren-Hicks
The Herald-Sun

DURHAM, N.C. — Time constraints often add pressure and emergency medical technicians deal with death’s deadline measured on the second hand of a life’s clock.

Through practiced repetitious drillings, EMTs hone lifesaving measures into second nature responses and gain readiness for any predicament by training for the worst, morbid scenarios.

On Wednesday, EMTs engaged in active shooter training at the North Carolina National Guard Armory on Stadium Drive, practicing the proper procedures for providing medical attention and extraction to shooting victims in the midst of hostile environments, still surrounded by threats.

“We try to set the scene as to make it as realistic as possible,” said Kathy Mellown, public information officer for Durham County Emergency Medical Services. “We have worked with, at our trainings, other law enforcement agencies for the last 7 or 8 years.”

Assisting the EMTs with the training scenarios were, members of the Durham Police Department, Durham County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina Central University Police, ODS Company Police, Durham Technical Community College Police and Duke University Police.

Emergency Medical Services employs 137 paramedics who undergo a mandatory 60 hours of training per year, said the Mellown.

High fidelity mannequins lay scattered in the grass behind the armory representing dying and desperate victims requiring EMTs’ help.

The drill began and two police officers with raised prop guns lead three EMTs toward the mannequins as the loud rattling of a supposed automatic weapon reverberated, echoing off building exteriors.

Of the same type and class that the U.S. Armed Services use to simulate battle zones, the mannequins were hyperrealistic and built to be anatomically accurate, some weighing more than 200 pounds.

The mannequins bled, had torn-open extremities and ripped genitals.

The machinegun sounded a second time, amplifying the chaos imposed on the training EMTs.

One male mannequin made gurgling sounds representing blood-induced asphyxiation, as one female mannequin spoke recorded, panicked and sometimes nonsensical statements: “I’m shot…I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

Instructors observed the EMTs’ application of tunicates, triage judgements and moving of victims into safety.

Inside the armory’s lockerroom four teenagers, the children of law enforcement personnel and on summer vacation, played the parts of wounded victims trapped and frightened within an enclosed space.

After two hours of preparatory make-up work, Brenna Slattery, 15, had burns painted on her wrists; Aiden Slattery, 13, had a fake wound from exploded shrapnel; blood stains ran down 15-year-old Becca Johnson’s leg from a laceration on her inner thigh; 16-year-old Matt Johnson had a laceration painted to his neck.

A smoke machine began to fill the room, setting the scene for the teenagers’ post-explosion acting.

The drill began and EMTs entered the room and Brenna Slattery yelled, “Help. Help.”

An EMT called through the smoke, “Can you walk?”

Brenna Slattery said, “No. Her leg is cut.”

Under the supervision of training instructors, the EMTs with their police escorts moved down the rows of lockers toward the teens, evaluated the teens and ultimately lifted Becca Johnson by her shoulders, half carrying, half dragging her outside.

“It was interesting,” Becca Johnson said. “The hardest part was the stairs. My flip-flops kept falling off.”

At a training session called “Wound Packing, Bandaging and SAS Bag” run by recently retired 40-year-veteran of the Emergency Medical Service, Kevin Wilson, two current EMTs, Brittany Scarlett and Sarah Johnson, pushed gauze into simulated but latex flesh, clotting gushing simulated blood.

“Packing the wound, more so than the old fashion application of ‘applying pressure,’ expands the likelihood of stopping the bleeding,” Wilson said.

Tim Cherry has been a Durham EMT for more 20 years and said he has encountered uncertain, hostile situations.

“A call about a gunshot wound came. When we got there we heard a shot fired close by,” Cherry said. “It ended up, that a cop had shot at a dog that attacked him. But, we didn’t know that at the time. It could have been the same person who shot the patient.”

Following his training, Cherry said he and his team moved the patient to the ambulance as quickly as possible.

Copyright 2016 The Herald-Sun

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