#LVShooting: Clark County Trauma Center Sets Admirable Example

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Days after the shooting stopped, the tragedy in Las Vegas continues to unfold as authorities unravel the method, motive, and madness of the event. Whether we ever learn what sparks such acts, there are vital lessons here: lessons applicable across several groups.

An unspeakable tragedy can happen: anywhere, any time. Knowing what to do, how to act, how to help, can be a matter of life and death. Consider this from three lifesaving perspectives.

Bystanders.

As was the case in the Boston Marathon bombing, lives were saved at the concert by attendees – immediate responders who reacted even as they were engulfed in the emerging event. One moment you are listening to music, the next you are caring for a stranger in the critical minutes before professional help arrives. When casualties are in the hundreds, first responders can be overwhelmed. The bystander becomes the only available aid. Much like we learned in school to stop, drop, and roll, every person should become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency. The Department of Homeland Security’s STOP THE BLEED program promotes easy to learn skills that have been proven to save lives in combat, in Boston, and in Las Vegas. See https://www.dhs.gov/stopthebleed and www.bleedingcontrol.org/ for more information.

First responders.

Recent mass shootings have illustrated the need for tactical training in finding and treating victims in active shooter environments. A concealed or entrenched shooter can inflict multiple casualties. Victims may expire prior to the area being secured while the shooter is still active; therefore, first responders must maneuver under fire, possess rapid risk assessment, and use body armor and ballistic helmets – protection methods that are sadly becoming part of the first responder portfolio. You may never need these, but failure to discuss this is an invitation to greater tragedy.

Hospitals and Healthcare Providers.

Treatment facilities have long practiced for disasters. Few anticipate or prepare for acute casualties numbering in the hundreds. Sports events, concerts, rallies, parades, and protests all offer the specter of overwhelming casualty flow. By all accounts, the emergency departments of Clark County performed admirably. Would your region respond as well?

Practicing triage and treatment of multiple, combat-style injuries in even the smallest hospital or city is valuable. (Consider that the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival brings 80,000 people to Manchester, TN, population 10,100.) Is medical staff – the first receivers of casualties — prepared to make the “black tag” determination that an individual’s injuries are beyond the ability to save? This flies in the face of every tenet of civilian healthcare, but can be a necessary option in crisis situations.

How big can your facility surge? The Las Vegas shooting happened around shift change, so extra staff was available. How would you deal with this during the overnight? What do you do when you run out of treatment bays? Of beds?

Combat medical staff will tell you of the emotional trauma of a mass casualty event. The adrenaline flows and the desire to save lives takes over. After, when things quiet down, the psychic impact sets in. Self-doubt, survivor guilt, and post-traumatic stress manifest. Prompt counseling support for victims, responders, and receivers is essential.

Working in preparedness, we have been called “professional pessimists.” Unfortunately, thinking the unthinkable is what saves lives. Complacency is the enemy of survival; and no locale is immune. Oklahoma City, Columbine, Aurora, Newtown, Orlando, Blacksburg, Fort Hood, Boston, Charleston, and Las Vegas have very little in common; but they all share a tragic legacy. It pays to be ready. Lives may depend on it.


Firestorm wants to help prepare your school or organization for any act of violence that may occur. One way is through our Virtual Stress Tests. Join Firestorm senior leaders and key, national partners for our December session – Terrorism or Lone Wolf: Does it Matter?

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