Tactical training preps responders for hostile scenarios
Bay County for the first time held drills for "tactical emergency casualty care" at the county's fire training facility
By John Henderson
BAY COUNTY, Fla. — Paramedics and law enforcement might never have to jointly respond to a call of an active shooter in a mall, or an officer being shot while serving a warrant—or it could happen in the next five minutes.
So on Thursday, first responders practiced drills for these hostile scenarios and others—just in case.
Bay County for the first time held drills for "tactical emergency casualty care" at the county's fire training facility next to the Emergency Operations Center. The county's firefighter training building served as the structure for the training exercises.
EMS personnel from the county and other local fire departments learned how to deal with situations in which they are responding with law enforcement to hostile situations with casualties.
"This class is for our EMTs and paramedics to prepare to assist our law enforcement where they are going to be finding themselves in a tactical situation, like if we made entry with a SWAT team or an active shooter situation," said Bay County Emergency Medical Services Capt. Danny Page.
With an uptick in mass shootings on the national level, Page said it was time for the county to conduct the training.
"There is an increased need for our staff to be prepared to respond to this type of a situation," he said. "So we try to make sure they are as trained as possible to not only back up the law enforcement, but to provide safety and rescue for the citizens."
He said by holding the drills, the county is trying to be accredited by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians to provide the Tactical Emergency Casualty Care program.
"This is the first time that we have put on this class," Page said.
Page said it is common for first responders to find themselves in potentially dangerous situations when responding to calls, so the training could help in other ways.
"We go into houses all the time where they may or may not be quite as secure as we wish, and things have been happening," he said. "We get threatened a lot."
The drills taught EMS personnel and other responders how to respond to and care for patients in a civilian tactical environment and decrease preventable deaths in a tactical situation. Page said he's learned the county needs to purchase specialized equipment to deal with some of these situations.
"If we are going to be expected to make entry, we need the technical vests," he said. "There is new equipment on market as far as stretchers and different products to get people out quickly. You don't need them on a regular basis, but when you need them, you need them."
Page said the training also is teaching EMS and paramedics to use their senses and other tools to get patients out of the hostile situation.
"This is medical treatment and technical awareness, how to make entry with a law enforcement team, treat the patients and get them out of the threatening environment," he said.
Bay County EMS Capt. Joel Welch said the training is a different way of thinking about how first responders normally approach their job. "It is a quick, down and dirty, what bare minimum do I absolutely have to do to keep you alive and get you out and get you to a safe area?" he said. "Then, I can do the detailed (medical treatment)."
Welch said people have lost lives in other mass shooting incidents across the country because EMS was kept out of the scene too long, and the idea of this training is to get EMS to the injured sooner when it is "relatively safe."
"It is totally different than what we do with our day-to-day patients," he said.
Derek Wicker, an EMT for the Panama City Fire Department, said the training was helpful.
"The biggest thing I learned is situational awareness," he said. "Try not to get tunnel vision. We're focused on an injury, but also be aware of your surroundings and things that are going on. At the end of the day, we are there to help, but we also want to go home to our families."
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