On the cold, rainy afternoon of Jan. 18, about 40 emergency responders geared up at Ocean View Police Department to prepare for an event they hope never happens. They were finishing a two-day seminar on managing casualties in a large-scale emergency.
“What can we as first-responders do to save lives and protect our lives, before hospital-based treatment?” said OVPD Chief Ken McLaughlin, adding that “all-hazards” training can prepare police for various catastrophes, from a major auto collision to active shooters in a public place.
After running a full-scale emergency drill in 2011 at Lord Baltimore Elementary School, the OVPD decided the officers needed additional critical care training. They invited the Millville and Bethany Beach volunteer fire companies, Sussex County paramedics and search-and-rescue responders, as well as Lord Baltimore’s school nurse and head janitor.
“It’s made for when you have a shooting with mass casualties, get into the scene, treat patients medically and remove them from dangerous areas,” explained OVPD PFC-1st Class Rhys Bradshaw.
Participants learned essential first aid to help get critically injured people out of a hostile situation. They might begin by tying tourniquets and packing open wounds, just so victims can be moved.
They learned the pros and cons of using different stretchers, and, using only some rope, they carried and dragged each other down the school’s narrow halls. By practicing these skills now, they hope they’ll have less to learn in a critical situation.
The Specialized Tactics for Operational Rescue and Medicine (STORM) operator course led to a realistic scenario, in which participants brought their new skills together. The police, EMTs and paramedics collaborated to enter the school, engage and take down a simulated active shooter, and then evacuate the simulated wounded.
This Tactical Emergency Casualty Care system was developed by the U.S. military during wartime to get people out of the line of fire and back to a safe place. On the battlefield or in a car crash, people can suffer many of the same kinds of injuries, so the military medical system has been migrated into civil service.
The nonprofit National Tactical Officers Association has joined Georgia Health Sciences University to educate law enforcement by bringing highly qualified experts with real-world medical experience from the FBI, the Cities of Los Angeles and Tucson, Ariz., and much more.
“This is some of the best hands-on training that I’ve had,” said Bradshaw, who has nine years of police service under his belt. “In a small community, we depend on each other, so it was good to train with the other firefighters.”
EMTs already have medical training, but they got a better view of the big picture through this week’s drill.
“It was top-notch training. It was nice for us to interact with the other agencies and understand what they go through in an active shooter scene,” said John Watson, EMS chief at the Millville Volunteer Fire Department. “Usually, when we get there, they’ve got everything taken care of … we’re usually waiting for them to give the OK.”
During the simulation, Bradshaw and other officers were armed with non-lethal training weapons. While still outside in the cold rain, Bradshaw was “shot” and quickly dragged across the muddy lawn to a safe haven.
“These situations don’t happen in the sunlight,” said Bradshaw. “We are more ready for when an incident like that happens. You’re never 100 percent ready for that, but one step closer.”
Watson also offered some advice for citizens. After first-responders arrive at an emergency, don’t intrude on their work, he said.
“If they see something like that happening, give us the space we need,” Watson said.