Conn. First Responders Train for MCIs with National Preparedness Program
Mar. 31—There are certain skills that no first responder ever wants to use, but must be prepared for—including those needed in the event of a mass casualty incident.
Fire, police, emergency medical services and telecommunications personnel from Fairfield County participated in three days of specialized, hands-on mass casualty training at Fairfield Regional Fire School from March 27 to March 29 to practice how to handle these types of situations.
"The training is designed to provide first responders with the dynamic of ... active shooters, hostile events," said Bill Ackley, a Stamford EMS captain and an instructor for National Center for Biomedical Research and Training, who helped lead the training efforts."
The training is federally funded through a national preparedness program at no cost to states or communities, Ackley said.
In Region 1—New England—the three-day training offered was an extension of a monthly 8-hour class offered by the NCBRT. About a dozen different agencies from Connecticut were represented at the recent training efforts.
The next 8-hour class will be held in New Canaan on April 11, Ackley said. Every participant received a tourniquet at the end of the class. So far, Ackley said, they have given out 160.
He said there are also 325 to 340 first responders trained in hemorrhage control because of the monthly class.
"It sounds kind of odd to people that police, fire and EMS need to practice to work together," Ackley said. "They think they work together on a regular basis."
But typically, fire or EMS personnel are on the outskirts of a situation while police handle it. But, Ackley said, in a large incident—like a mass casualty —it's all hands on deck.
"It's important to learn to integrate what each agency's responsibilities are," Ackley said.
On the third day of the course, first responders practiced four active shooter drills, said Bridgeport fire Capt. Giovanni Sanzo, one of many first responders to participate in the training.
"The police had a real person (shooter) that moved throughout the building," he said. "There were live 'patients' with injuries for fire and EMS to treat and care for. Ambulances were brought in to simulate bringing a patient out of the building and into an ambulance for transport to a hospital."
Sanzo said the fire department was fortunate to participate in the training.
"The Bridgeport Fire Department has recognized the unfortunate growing need for its members to be prepared to respond to an active shooter," Sanzo said, adding that the department was fortunate to be a part of the three-day training.
The training—called the Active Threat Integrated Response Course—helped first responders combine their efforts to respond to an active shooter incident, Sanzo said.
During the course, Sanzo said, police were trained on how to enter the scene, stop the attack and provide quick lifesaving medical treatment to victims. Fire and EMS worked to integrate with law enforcement efforts to form "rescue task forces."
"The RTFs are designed to allow medical and fire personnel to enter a scene under police security," Sanzo said. He said treating the victims before moving them can increase their odds of survival.
The Bridgeport Fire Department recently put into service specialty medical bags, which allows firefighters to bring tactical emergency casualty care supplies efficiently to patients at scenes, Sanzo said. The bags carry triage tape, tourniquets, bandages and chest seals.
"This ATIRC training also allows us to train using the bags in practical application, proving their effectiveness," Sanzo said.
In Norwalk, police Lt. Terry Blake said it was an easy decision to have members of the police department attend the three-day ATIRC training in Fairfield.
"We have always had members attend these events," said police Lt. Terry Blake.
But this training isn't unusual for first responders in Norwalk.
"Norwalk has been training for active shooters ... for many years," Blake said.
The city developed a response plan for emergency situations—including mass casualty incidents—in 2016. It was done in collaboration with Norwalk's fire and police departments, emergency medical services and the office of emergency management.
"We certainly do all we can in the City of Norwalk to be prepared should a significant incident occur," Blake said.