Indy responders lauded for stage collapse response

Radio communication released Monday showed that emergency responders were quick to recognize the scope of the disaster

INDIANAPOLIS — Officials said Monday that a joint operations center at the Indiana State Fairgrounds was near-flawless in execution in the immediate aftermath of a stage collapse that killed five people and injured dozens more.

Fire, ambulance, city and state police personnel were all standing by in one location just yards away from the main stage, and they were able to respond to the scene within a couple of minutes.

It was the first year there was a coordinated effort to combine public safety operations at the fair. Officials think its presence shaved 10 to 15 minutes off the response time, likely saving lives.

Radio communication released Monday showed that emergency responders were quick to recognize the scope of the disaster.

"Trying to establish a triage area where we can start moving the walking wounded into," said one emergency responder over the city's radio system just moments after the collapse. "We can start getting them transported out."

Sixty firefighters, including the Collapse Rescue Team, were mobilized within minutes.

"Make sure we have available access to get to the trapped people," said another responder in radio communication.

Thirteen ambulances were dispatched to transport the injured to hospitals. All the coordinated response started because of the captain at the joint operations center.

"The captain was able to walk out of the command center across the street from the concert and set up command, which saved us 10 to 15 minutes," said Eric Hofmeister, Indianapolis Fire Department spokesman. "He was able to go in there, size up the situation, report back to the command center that he just left and get the apparatus rolling in."

While firefighters were instrumental in rescuing people from beneath the rubble, some are finding it difficult to accept that they couldn't save everyone. A Critical Incident Stress Management team is helping those responders cope.

"You try to tough it out. You try to suck it up. That's what people expect. That's the old way of doing business," Hofmeister said. "I can't say it didn't work. What we do now is recognize post-traumatic stress disorder is real."

A peer support group will visit Tuesday with firefighters who responded to the collapse. They will talk with them or direct them to services available in an employee assistance program.

Republished with permission from

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