For the past year and a half, Memorial Hermann Life Flight® crew members have been working alongside first responders throughout the Greater Houston area to prepare them to respond and provide timely emergency care in active shooter situations. Life Flight is the only air medical transport service in the Southeast region to offer this specialized training, which is part of a national training program called Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC). By coordinating emergency response efforts and operating under a single protocol, first responders can work quicker and more effectively to identify and treat the injured, helping prevent any additional fatalities and casualties.
“Traditionally, training for emergency medical services providers and paramedics has largely focused on preparing them to respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and floods,” said George Tarver III, clinical educator and senior flight medic for Life Flight. “But, few of these agencies have been trained on how to respond to active shooter events. That lack of preparedness means that EMS and paramedics who are thrust into these situations must wait for law enforcement to clear the scene first before they move in to provide lifesaving patient care. In some situations, victims may wait several hours for treatment, a lengthy delay at a time when swift medical care is critical.”
Today, Life Flight has trained more than 200 EMS providers, paramedics, firefighters, SWAT team members and corporate emergency response teams, among other groups across the Greater Houston area. The training, developed by the National Association of Emergency Technicians, has garnered heightened attention in recent years amid the dramatic rise in the number of active shooter incidents across the United States.
Such high-risk emergency situations can be chaotic and involve multiple agencies that have no history of working together, Tarver said. Life Flight recognized a need for this training to help bridge the gap in the Houston area among the array of law enforcement agencies, healthcare providers, emergency medical services, fire departments, and federal agencies that would be called upon to respond in such an incident. The 16-hour training program, which is comprised of classroom work and role playing scenarios, is designed to prepare various agencies to work together during hectic mass casualty events.
“By exposing first responders to situations they have never encountered before, they learn quickly how best to evaluate the risks in dangerous situations and make quick decisions that can mean the difference between life and death for the victims of an active shooter incident,” Tarver said. “Through this training, multiple agencies learn strategies and techniques that can help boost survivability in tragedies of gun violence.”
Agencies that received the training said they found it beneficial in preparing their first responders to react swiftly to unexpected crisis situations.
“Training and practice are the key to the success of any operation, especially tactical ones,” said Patrick Langan, EMS Field Supervisor for the Montgomery County Hospital District, which participated in a recent training session. “While we hope that our staff will not have to respond to an active shooter situation, we want them to be prepared. Training our staff on the latest in emergency tactical care ensures we give the best care and service to our county residents. It also allows tactical teams from multiple jurisdictions to practice with the people they will be working alongside during a possible incident."
The training is a continuation of Life Flight’s guiding principles, which were established under the guidance of legendary trauma surgeon James H. “Red” Duke, MD, to help educate the first responder community and improve trauma care in the pre-hospital setting, Tarver said.
“Offering the TECC program speaks volumes about the evolution of Life Flight over the past four decades,” he said. “Because of the strong military background of most of our crew, we’ve always had crew members who were trained in tactical medicine. Now, we are sharing that expertise with the entire first responder community as we continue to pay tribute to Dr. Duke’s legacy of saving lives.