Rapid Response: Is MCI response part of your community celebration planning?

Every community has a festival, fair or event that could be a target for violence, like the Gilroy Garlic Festival


Within the span of a week, 34 people have been killed in three active shooter events; 22 in El Paso, Texas; 10 in Dayton, Ohio; and three in Gilroy, California. Learn more about what EMS agencies should take away from these tragedies with expert analysis from industry leaders.

The popular Gilroy Garlic Festival in Santa Clara County California was coming to a close Sunday evening when a gunman opened fire. The festival brings thousands of people every year to the small town of 58,000.

There are reportedly three dead, including two young children, and 15 injured. 

What happened. Todd Jones, a sound engineer, told the Associated Press that he was at the front of the festival's Vineyard stage when he heard what sounded like a firework. "But then it started to increase, more rapidly, which sounded more like gunfire, and at that point, people realized what was happening," Jones said.

A police officer dressed in SWAT gear walks through the first aid center at Gilroy High School following a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif., on Sunday July 28, 2019. (AP Photo/David Royal)
A police officer dressed in SWAT gear walks through the first aid center at Gilroy High School following a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif., on Sunday July 28, 2019. (AP Photo/David Royal)

From the videos posted on social media, it was chaos. Evenny Reyes (13), of Gilroy, told the press, “We were just leaving and we saw a guy with a bandana wrapped around his leg because he got shot. And there were people on the ground, crying, There was a little kid hurt on the ground. People were throwing tables and cutting fences to get out."

Why it’s significant. This is a modest-sized town with a small fire department. Resources early on must have been scant, while first responders were faced with trying to create order in this situation.

Think for a minute what it would be like. CPR in progress on a kid and more than a dozen wounded. Patients being transported in private vehicles. They didn’t even know if there might be multiple shooters, with one still running around with a rifle.

Top takeaways on the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting

Here are two takeaways EMS agencies should learn from this incident.

1. Any mass gathering is a target for violence

We can only imagine being the first EMS crew on the scene. But we all better learn how to respond to a mass gathering, because this is the new normal.

We need to come to grips with the situation. Any large group of people carries a risk for mass violence. No place is too safe, too sleepy or too rural to avoid being at risk anymore. I have worked and lived in a few rural communities. It’s easy to feel safe to the point of perceived immunity.

Thousands of small towns across America have summer events. They celebrate a season or a local specialty and are important to a community’s economy. The whole point is to draw large groups of people carrying wallets.

In recent years, mass murderers have often attacked large groups, including those in schools, houses of religious worship and nightclubs. Organized events are another target. The Las Vegas shooter targeted attendees at the  Route 91 Harvest Festival, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds.  

2. Pre-plan and practice MCI response for mass gatherings

Anytime you will have hundreds of people in one place you need to be prepared. Practice setting up a command structure and triage station. Practice setting up transport stations and ensuring access and egress of responding units. Be ready by being well trained and regularly drilled.

Because if we can learn anything from this horrifying event, it is that this can happen anywhere large groups gather.

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