9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bulletin Board - Medics Enter "Warm Zones"

Taken from Emergency Management Magazine, January/February 2014

After the Columbine massacre, law enforcement changed its strategy to a more aggressive one where the first officers on the scene of a shooting immediately move to confront the shooter, instead of waiting, as was the approach previously.  At Columbine High School, police waited a half-hour for SWAT to arrive before entering the school.

And now, medical personnel are following suit and not waiting for the scene to be cleared before entering.  During a shooting at a Sparks, Nev., middle school, a paramedic donned a bulletproof vest and a helmet and entered the fray seven minutes into the chaos and before the shooting had ended to look for victims.  He found two and got them to ambulances.

That approach, one that experts think will save lives by getting wounded patients out of the line of fire quicker, will occur more often per new FEMA guidelines released in September.  According to a New York Times report, medical experts studied the Boston Marathon bombing and several mass shootings and found that sending first responders into "warm zones" to help bleeding victims will cut down on deaths.

First responders are to be accompanied by police and wear body armor.  Although the events themselves are usually over in minutes, it can take an hour or more to get victims stabilized by medical personnel.  The report said the U.S. military has saved thousands of lives in recent conflicts by responding quickly in combat, and that many lives were saved after the Boston Marathon bombings because of the immediate medical attention given to victims.

Another recent report acknowledged that Newtown, Conn., police arrived on the scene of the school massacre less than three minutes after the 911 call and entered the school six minutes later.  By that time, shooter Adam Lanza had done his damage and killed himself as well.  Tragically 20 kids and six others died, but it's possible that the police's quick response pushed Lanza to end it all and thus saved others.

That's why it's considered imperative that law enforcement officers engage the shooter as quickly as possible.  And that's why at least one school is deploying a gunshot detection system on campus.  The technology detects the gunshots, someone off campus presses a button, and police in the area are notified with information on the type of gun used, where in the school the shots came from and floor plans of the school.  In effect, police know almost instantly the exact location of the shots fired.  It's intriguing and could save lives, but it's expensive.

The good news is that school shootings are still not common.  The sad news is that they are becoming common enough for schools to consider spending precious dollars on something like this.

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