Active Shooter Drills: Preparing for “The Worst” with Tactical EMS

By April 16, 2014LACoFD News

Vehicle-Extraction-exerciseThe FBI defines an active shooter as a person actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms, and there is not pattern or method to their selection of victims. Our personnel, led by our Homeland Security Section, continue to practice saving our citizens wounded in active shootings.  Last month, at an Active Shooter Drill at Temple City High School, their staff, faculty and students, Battalion 10 Chief Eleni Pappas, Battalion 10 units, our Homeland Security Section (HSS) and our Sheriff (LASD) Special Enforcement Bureau  group trained together to prepare for the worst.

HSS Battalion Chief Stan Brawer said the scenario of this event was an Active Shooter on campus. He explained that, “Safety for our first responders and treating victims of gunshot wounds with lifesaving interventions such as tourniquets and chest seals were the top priorities.” Our EMS personnel are drilling to reduce the time the injured patient waits to receive treatment and transportation to hospitals. With past protocol, paramedics couldn’t get to victims until police cleared the area and took the gunmen into custody. The idea of sending paramedics into a hostile situation originated after the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2013, where James Eagan Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70.

Photo-one-per-BrawerFor our Fire personnel, the drilling focuses on the “Warm Zone,” in between the “Hot” and “Cold” Zones.  The “Hot Zone” is the war zone where the active shooting is occurring.  The “Cold Zone” is a safe place completely removed from the shooting where we stage equipment and personnel to triage patients, treat them and prepare them for transport to hospitals.  The “Warm Zone” is where fire personnel, an engine company and paramedics, go in with law enforcement protection to the wounded where they fell. In the “Warm Zone,” there is still risk to the first responders, but law enforcement officers are confident the shooting has ended. In the diamond formation, these officers have guns drawn and they surround the fire personnel to protect them as they move to the wounded to provide primary triage, basic lifesaving care and transport to the cold zone.  In the drilling, our Fire personnel learn to react as they would in a real life scenario.

Yesterday, drills continued at Lakewood, today they took place in Palmdale, and within the next month our personnel will practice at least eight more drills, including a three-day exercise for North Operations Bureau personnel at a shopping mall in the City of Santa Clarita.

HSS Fire Captain Roland Sprewell said that we not only train with other agencies, but we also observe their drills to learn from them. Our Department will be observing the drills of the Pasadena Police and Fire Departments on May 23.

“This is such a new frontier for the fire service. Our Department does not have a monopoly on the knowledge. We are constantly learning,” says Sprewell. “We continually observe what other fire agencies, such as Pasadena, LA City, and Glendale are doing, so we can perfect what we do. We learn from one another.”  He emphasizes that the key word is interoperability. All agencies need to operate in such a way that “we all sing from the same sheet of music.”

The public expects a quick response in tragedies like these.  HSS Fire Captain David Laub said, “Being an all-risk fire department, we respond to all risks and hazards to save lives. The people for whom we raised our hands and swore to protect demand this. We are drilling so that we can respond, treat them and get them to the hospital quickly. If I had children, I would expect that fire and law enforcement personnel would respond quickly to protect and save them in such an awful incident.” He added that this training series is the first in the nation by large fire and police departments.

Battalion Chief Eleni Pappas explained that “This is tactical emergency medical support. We hope it never happens but know by these drills that we are prepared for the worst case scenario.”