As we all know, we are seeing a much lesser amount of structure fires than did our predecessors. This is a combination of better fire prevention on the part of the fire department, better fire extinguishing systems, public education and the fact that every passerby has a cell phone. As a result, I have seen a shift in the fire department promotional simulations. In recent years I have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of multi casualty incident scenarios being used as a part of the fire department assessment center.
If you look at recent events in the United States and across the world, there are numerous large scale disasters involving multi casualty incidents. While many of these incidents occur naturally, unfortunately there is a dramatic increasing trend that these occur at the hands of another.
Yesterday there was a mass shooting at a newspaper in France. A few weeks ago a woman ran into a large group in a crosswalk in Redondo Beach, California. Of course the tragic movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado as well as countless others across the country and the world. According to the website shootingtracker.com, there were 278 shootings of two people or more in the United States in 2014.
From a fire service perspective multi casualty incidents present themselves in a variety of different ways. In the hands of another presents unique challenges to the rescuers. The tragedy at Columbine High School taught us all that we cannot wait as more lives are being taken each valuable minute. Tactical EMS programs are teaching force protection (EMS personnel coupled with police officers to enter in an effort to save those who have been wounded) and casualty collection points (safe locations where patients are gathered prior to being moved to treatment areas).
Of course rescuer safety is of paramount importance when dealing with any emergency response. It is heightened in an active shooter scenario. Many fire departments have issued body armor to their personnel. There is a debate as to whether or not firefighters should wear the armor on top of or under their jackets. The theory is if the shooter wants to shoot a person he or she will shoot around the visible body armor to inflict damage. If the shooter is unaware the firefighter is wearing armor, the theory is that the chance of survival may be greater. This debate will not be solved here. One thing I absolutely recommend is for firefighters to wear their structural firefighting helmets. Will this stop a bullet? It’s not likely, however there is a chance that the shooter may think twice before targeting a rescuer, especially if the rescuer is a firefighter. Unfortunately this is not always the case as pointed out by the tragic firefighter shootings in New York.