Branden Jackman said it goes back to the old adage, “An ounce of prevention makes a pound of cure.”
The Paint Creek Joint Fire/EMS District and Jackman, public information officer for the district, are in the early stages of training law enforcement and EMS personnel to respond to active threat situations in local schools.
Jackman told The Times-Gazette that Paint Creek staff hosted critical trauma care training for 47 county law enforcement officials over the weekend, the first step in an initiative that will hopefully build up toward the assembly of a Quick Reaction Force — a team composed of two EMTs and two to four law enforcement officers that would enter an active threat situation as a cohesive unit.
“It’s a melding of law enforcement and fire/rescue workers to where they act as a single team,” he said. “They each have their area of responsibility. The law enforcement is there for force protection, and the medical and EMS staff are there to provide medical care.”
In other words, Jackman said, law enforcement stops the killing, and EMS personnel stop the dying. But while each member of the unit has a different responsibility, Jackman said they all have to have an understanding of the others’ responsibilities to be successful — that’s why the ultimate goal is to hold side-by-side training for law enforcement and EMS personnel.
“We want law enforcement to understand our side of it,” Jackman said. “But another aspect of it is the EMTs need to understand the law enforcement aspect of it, too, so they need to understand cover and tactical movement. It’s not trying to take two squares and shove them together to make a circle. It’s each team member understanding the other team member’s responsibilities, and multiplying each other’s positives.”
Some of the officers in attendance last weekend were from smaller police departments in the county, Jackman said, and could play a vital role in response to some critical situations.
“We never know what school it might be,” he said. “If it happens in Hillsboro schools, they have the benefit of police and fire right there; but once you get out to the outlying schools, it’s going to take us a while to get out there.”
In that case, Jackman said, the responsibility may fall on those officers from smaller police departments to utilize trauma care training.
“We call it buddy-aid, self-aid. It’s first-aid for themselves, so they can care for themselves if they get wounded. If we get an active threat, they’re not waiting for us to get there. As they respond to the threat, they may come across people who are gravely wounded. This training gives them a little bit of skill to get started prior to EMS arrival.”
Jackman said the weekend training and further education will give them just that. The next step, he said, is bringing fire and rescue personnel on board for more training.
“Once we have everyone on an even kilter, then we start training to put the two pieces together,” he said.
According to Jackman, any EMT that enters an active threat situation with a Quick Reaction Force will carry enough medical equipment to treat five victims.
“So, between the two EMTs that go in, you have enough equipment to treat 10 victims,” he said.
In the end, “it’s kind of like CPR,” Jackman said. “It’s a vital skill, but you hope you never have to use it. If you do, you’re going to be interacting with people on the darkest day of their life… The fire rescue service would rather be prepared than caught on our heels.
“The biggest thing is preparation. The more you practice something, the better you get at it. Should that day ever come, and we’re faced with that tragedy, we can handle it better. That’s one of the driving factors behind doing what we’re doing now.”
Jackman said the initiative is still about five or six months away from coming to fruition, but he hopes it will be worth the time investment.
“It goes back to the predictive thing,” Jackman said. “We always train for the worst and hope for the best, and if it doesn’t ever happen, we hope we land somewhere in the middle.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.