Trending Topics

Quick Take: How to improve EMS response to mass shootings

EMS World Keynote speaker Alexander Eastman explains what EMS needs to get to the scene quicker to improve victim survivability


Alexander Eastman, chief of trauma at UT Southwestern/Parkland Memorial Hospital and a Dallas police lieutenant at EMS World 2014.

Image Cate Lecuyer

Keynote Speaker Alexander Eastman, chief of trauma at UT Southwestern/Parkland Memorial Hospital and a Dallas police lieutenant, kicked off the EMS World Expo with a presentation on mass shootings.

Here’s a quick summary of how to improve EMS response and victim survivability.

From the Boston Marathon bombing, to the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., there’s one thing all mass shootings have in common.

“These incidents are predictably unpredictable,” Eastman said.

While there’s no “one size fits all” response, EMS needs to get to the scene faster to provide medical attention.

Most memorable quote

“You don’t put somebody in body armor in harm’s way without giving them the ability to fight back.”

Takeaways: Hemorrhage control, training

People in mass shootings often die the same way as soldiers on the battlefield. Blood loss needs to be controlled, and EMS needs access to the proper equipment, including tourniquets.

“It’s high time everyone in this room is a hemorrhage-control expert,” Easton said.

There needs to be a change in the traditional training paradigm, Easton said. Establishing a rescue task force, for instance, looks great on paper but “it won’t survive first contact,” he said. EMS lacks the protective equipment and hemorrhage control equipment, and the perfect deployment of such a model is still too slow.

EMS needs to move from local training, to more integrated training with law enforcement and other regional public safety responders.

Establishing integrated public safety committees and holding quarterly integrated meetings should be a regular part of preplanning for such a mass-shooting event.

“If you don’t know your counterpart, shame on you,” he said.

Outreach is also important in terms of planning for an active-shooter incident, Eastman said. Training the public to help EMS is important, as is using all the technological tools available for both the public, and other responders.

“We’ve got to harness technology to help all of us,” he said.