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Rapid Response: EMS response is media focus in early phase of an active shooter

EMS actions at an active shooter incident are likely improving as mass shootings become familiar, regular and routine


What happened: San Bernardino Fire Department and AMR personnel made a rapid response to a mass shooting this afternoon at the Inland Regional Center. Early television coverage and tweets from the scene showed medics caring for and moving injured patients. It seems that the EMS personnel were quickly receiving patients as cops entered the facility and searched for the shooter or multiple shooters.

Why it's significant: EMS brings order to chaos
At least three people were killed and 20 were injured which means our EMS colleagues are assessing patients with life-threatening hemorrhage, assuring those patients have patent airways and immobilizing orthopedic trauma. They look to be doing this with casualty collection points for distributing patients to triage, treatment and transportation units.

Top takeaways: EMS is the focus of early media coverage
In the early phase of an active shooter response the EMS operations, especially those in the cold zone, will be the focal point for news and bystander cameras. Here are three takeaways about active shooter preparation and response.

1. EMS shares the cold zone with media and bystanders
While the rescue task force response will mean warm zone entry for some EMS personnel, the ambulance staging and most patient care will happen in the cold zone. In many communities media will respect the law enforcement request to not broadcast the movement of cops and tactical teams. Thus the cameras, which need to broadcast something, will focus on EMS.

2. There is no excuse for not preparing for an active shooter
The civilians we serve are regularly watching EMS providers in real time, or close to it, responding to active shooter incidents. Coverage from Paris, Colorado Springs, Umpqua, Oregon and Trollhattan, Sweden prominently featured staged ambulances and medics tending to patients. If your agency has trained for active shooter incidents, implemented the rescue task force, is well-equipped with tourniquets and prepared to provide basic and advanced level airway management to trauma victims you will likely do well and shine under the spotlight.

If your agency hasn't prepared for an active shooter you first need to overcome your denial about an incident happening in your community. Mass shootings can happen anywhere. Next, learn and train. San Bernardino police, fire and medics conducted an active shooter exercise at a college campus five days ago.

There are plenty of resources available to learn about active shooter response, standing up a rescue task force, equipping police officers with tourniquets and training bystanders to control bleeding.  

3. Ongoing incident requires caution and situational awareness
Finally, the early report from the San Bernardino incident is that one to three attackers have fled the scene. All emergency responders need to be mindful that their next response, blocks or miles away, could be an additional mass shooting incident. Be wary, suspicious and mindful of your surroundings.

Learn more:
Hybrid Targeted Violence vs. Active Shooter Incidents

Paris massacre rapid response: EMS leaders must prepare for Hybrid Targeted Violence in the U.S.

Rapid Response: Active shooter or active stabber? The EMS response is the same

Rapid Response: Mass murder at Ore. college shows challenge, importance of good PIO work

Why police need to train to use and carry an IFAK

Rapid Response: Clear and concise radio communication is key to MCI management

Self-care tips to recover from a traumatic EMS incident 

Active shooter incident: Overcome adrenaline to focus on one patient at a time

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