Calif. Medical Professionals Discuss Lessons Learned from Mass Shooting
Jan. 26—Limited access, spotty cell phone service and a chaotic crime scene were among challenges health professionals faced in providing help to those injured in the Rancho Tehama shooting last November, a panel of health care experts shared on Friday.
In a conference hosted by Dignity Health, medical professionals held a panel discussion to reflect on lessons learned from last year's mass shooting at the Rancho Tehama Reserve, where six people died and 12 others were injured.
It all came down to team work, planning and communication.
"How do you plan for something like this? Well, you don't do it alone," said Mark Belden, operations manager with American Medical Response.
Belden emphasized that because his team had previously met and planned with law enforcement officials and hospital emergency department supervisors, they were prepared to handle an "active shooter situation."
The Rancho Tehama reserve is a small community about 13 miles west of Red Bluff home to about 1,500 people. A two-lane road leads in to the reserve, and much of the roads inside the community are narrow lanes.
"There was one way in and one way out," Belden said. This posed a problem because authorities weren't sure whether there was more than one shooter or multiple scenes where people were awaiting rescue.
Belden added that limited cell coverage in the area hindered communications, and they had to make do by tethering their phones through a wireless internet hotspot in his vehicle to make wireless calls at the incident command center.
"It was weird, but it worked and it really helped us out a lot," he said.
And while they didn't know the exact situation they were rushing in to, they knew the initial reports stated that at least four people were injured and needed help.
Belden said that the medic who arrived on scene put four victims into his vehicle and drove them to the nearest hospital instead of waiting for air transport.
At Mercy Medical Center in Redding, Lyrae Sullivan, director of emergency, ICU and trauma, said the emergency room wasn't so busy initially. But when the call came in that victims were coming in from Tehama County, she was prepared.
"I was on the radio directing where the casualties would go," she said.
Coincidentally, Enloe Medical Center had scheduled a mass shooting exercise to go live on the morning of the shooting. Volunteers had appeared ready with makeup on to make the event look as real as possible. But once the call came in about the actual shooting at the reserve, the training was immediately cancelled, said Judy Cline, emergency director at Enloe Medical Center.
"We had to tell the volunteers to remove their makeup because the media would be descending soon," she said.
Cline said their 49-bed emergency room was prepared to take on the load, but did not go into lockdown the way Mercy Medical Center's emergency room did.
Sullivan said that Shasta Regional Medical Center stepped up to take on some of Mercy's non-shooting patients.
And while "all the players know each other" in Shasta County and are prepared to respond, practice and planning are an absolute necessity, Belden said.
"Plans work, we just have to continue to practice," he said. "There's no place that's immune to this. Rancho was a different day."
"I can't emphasize enough how important it is to practice," added Sullivan.
Jason Swann, director of emergency medical services at Dignity Health North State, said medical professionals see trauma every day, and the important thing is to look out for each other, offer support and take advantage of employee programs.
"The 'scoop-it-up-buttercup' days are pretty much gone," he said. "We have to take care of our people."