Stopping the shooting is a job for the police. Stopping the bleeding is a job for ambulance crews.
LifeCare Ambulance, which covers Amherst from its station on Cleveland Avenue, has ramped up “rescue task force” training in recent weeks in response to gun violence across the nation.
Vice president Herb de la Porte said police have trained extensively in the past few years for encounters with heavily-armed threats — and more departments are staging active shooter drills all the time, including Oberlin, which will hold two in coming months.
“They’ve modified their behavior to handle that over the last five years especially. I want to make sure our people know what is expected of them,” de la Porte said.
His goal is make sure EMTs and paramedics know their roles should they ever encounter a situation with mass casualties.
That includes pairing with officers to enter hostile situations, find the worst wounded, and save lives on the spot.
Amherst police Lt. Dan Makruski told us earlier this month how officers worry about the very real possibility of intruders in schools and other highly-populated places.
Reacting to the Dec. 2 terrorist attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif., he said there’s a genuine need for more consistent training by all agencies involved in rescue operations.
Makruski led just such a drill in September at Amherst Steele High School. LifeCare was involved, and we watched as EMTs were escorted by Lorain County sheriff’s deputies and SWAT team members into the building to “treat” play-actors with simulated injuries.
The ambulance company’s recent training addresses some areas identified in that drill as needing improvement, de la Porte said.
That includes staying out of any possible line of fire and being aware of surroundings and possible dangers at all times.
But perhaps the hardest part is training medical responders to step over victims with lesser injuries to get to those with life-threatening wounds.
“These days we’re expected to get to the patients a lot quicker and to take care of those in critical condition first,” said de la Porte.
During a shooting response, surroundings are divided into zones — hot, warm, and cold — describing the threat level in each. “In the warm zone, you kind of think, ‘Oh, that’s semi-safe,’” he said. “What we’re trying to avoid is finding the first people, dragging them out, and finding out they’re not the people who need help the quickest.”
Makruski, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, said that’s a more militaristic mindset, much like the “care under fire” philosophy used on a battlefield.
And shooting scenes are battlefields.
San Bernardino proved the sixth-deadliest domestic terrorism shooting in American history.
Topping that wretched list is the 2007 slaying of 32 people by student Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech, followed by the killing of 20 children and six adults in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Skimming the list of the country’s 30 worst mass shootings of the past 65 years reveals 16 — more than half — have happened since the turn of the millennium.
As of this writing, no shootings involving four or more people (the metric used by the FBI to define “mass”) have occurred since San Bernardino.
That’s not likely to hold true very long. There have been 353 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2015, more than one per day.
De la Porte said he wants readers to remember, however, that it’s a large country and the chances of being caught in the crossfire, while troubling, are actually very low.
The mass shooting fatality rate in the United States was about 1.5 deaths for every 1 million people between 2000 and 2014, according to a study by researchers at the State University of New York in Oswego and Texas State University.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times LifeCare Ambulance responders practice during a drill this fall at Amherst Steele High School. More EMT trainings are being held this month in response to violence across the United States.