We’re all very aware of the things going on with the that happened a couple of weeks ago in Aurora, Colorado. The mass casualty incident that occurred there in the movie theater was horrible. It’s raised awareness about mass casualty incidents in EMS circles.
There’s been a lot of discussion about mass casualty incidents related to that incident, however one issue that came out now is there seems to have been a lag getting additional ambulances to the scene. The delay seems to be in activating all the mutual aid agreements needed to get the number of ambulances that ultimately would be needed to transport that large a number of patients.
Managing Public Expectations
I look at this article I think it’s probably very alarming to the public, but this is why we call them mass casualty incidents. They are, by definition, incidents that local parties cannot handle on their own and even if we activate a mass casualty situation and start calling for more ambulances and responders, it takes time to start routing those ambulances.
I think there was a lag time for the police to realize exactly how many dozens of casualties they had. As the realized the scope of the incident and started giving that information back to dispatch,dispatch has a lag in understanding what kind of resources were really needed.
It took up to a half an hour for mutual aid ambulances to get there and bring their services and resources to bear. It seems to me that the most critically injured patients were probably transported pretty rapidly. Of course I’m sure we’ll see some sort of after action report on this in one or both of the major EMS journals.
Educate Public About EMS
This article points out the need to help our public to understand mass casualty and to set up their expectations. If we have a situation where there is a severe accident, a severe problem, we need to teach our public that the initial services on the scene are going to be unable to provide the care that’s needed for all of the patients. It’s going to take as long as it takes to travel from the neighboring towns and mutual aid jurisdictions to get the additional ambulances there. No area has all the resources needed for an event like this, especially in rural areas, and even in cities and places like Aurora.
There is a need to educate our public and have an appropriate recommendation to them of what they should expect from us in certain situations. Then, hopefully, we have our public officials back us up on that.
Review Your Protocols
In addition to prepping your public, as always, you should use this incident in Colorado as a way to spur yourself to review your mass casualty protocols. What do you do when something like that happens? What is your agency’s protocol and guideline for handling mass casualty incidents? We should practice these types of things more often, even at a sand table exercise or sitting around having a discussion about an exercise so that when the time comes it’s not something that you did it over a year ago and nobody really members who was in charge of what.
So keep that in mind as you go through the next few weeks and what you need to review to stay fresh as an EMS professional.
Catch this news item and more in this week’s episode of the MedicCast – Heat Related Emergencies Revisited and Episode 294.