By Samantha HillAugust 13, 2018
In an emergency situation, fire and law enforcement officials respond differently, using their own jargon and tactics. Throughout the country and across the Army Materiel Command, communities are bridging that gap before an emergency happens.
"If we were to have an active assailant on any of our installations, we're going to need outside support, so it's good to understand what the process is," said Chuck Davis, Army Materiel Command chief of fire and emergency services. "It opens pathways for us to talk and it builds that relationship."
That's exactly what Davis did. The Army Materiel Command hosted emergency management, law enforcement and fire personnel from across the command and the Huntsville community to plan for the worst and set up rescue task forces, July 31 to Aug. 2.
Davis explained in the past during an active assailant situation, fire officials were trained to respond after law enforcement responders cleared the entire area.
"What happens is security goes in and clears the whole entire building, but you have victims in there that bleed to death because they're not getting treatment," Davis said.
That is where a rescue task force comes in. The basic concept is to have a separate group follow law enforcement onto the scene as they clear different sections. The task force would have law enforcement officers, and fire or emergency management personnel working together to ensure victims in critical condition are treated as quickly as possible.
Using a real life example, the workshop hosted members of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and Clark County Fire Department who responded to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting. On Oct. 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire on concertgoers, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds. Before this incident, Las Vegas Metro police officer Bert Hughes, who works in the Multi Assault Counter Terrorism Action Capabilities section, said local fire and police began meeting in late 2012 to brainstorm ways to better work together.
"When we started, it was really about getting the concept down, how we are going to do it, but then we didn't really implement it," Hughes said. "We got to know the firemen first, went out and visited the fire stations and we just got to know the people."
Once responders got to know each other better, they were able to form their rescue task force plan. Shortly after the southern Nevada area adopted their program. Units trained together and offered training to the public. Hughes said he learned a lot from the mass shooting in October 2017, but the training beforehand helped because it built relationships across emergency personnel.
"When I got there, I recognized firemen from training. Being able to recognize faces, it put a lot of things at ease," Hughes said.
Hughes and Clark County Fire Department Capt. Mark Kittelson said an important step for creating rescue task forces is a memorandum of record, addressing issues like getting emergency services on base, organizing dispatch and updating local hospitals.
"Whoever it is, they're going to handle business, they're going to do whatever to help their fellow men, especially on a military installation," Kittelson said. "You're never going to have a lack of people wanting to help, you just have to provide them the way to help."
Hughes and Kittelson said a key piece of emergency response is bystanders. Programs like Stop the Bleed teaches community members how to stop severe bleeding using tourniquets and other first aid tactics. Kittelson said those programs, plus off-duty doctors and nurses, allowed bystanders to save more lives than emergency officials during the Las Vegas shooting.
One Army Materiel Command installation is close to having a rescue task force up and running. Watervliet Arsenal worked with local police, fire and dispatch officials to train and help other Army Materiel Command officials. One of those is Tobyhanna Army Depot, which started training and setting up its own task force.
Crane Army Ammunition Activity set up the Stop the Bleed program as a first step. Jessica Kirkendall from the Antiterrorism/Emergency Management Security Office said Stop the Bleed helps the workforce prepare in case of accidents on the job or an active assailant incident, providing extra help until medical personnel can arrive.
"I look at this as a way for my workforce to be that force multiplier," Kirkendall said.
As for AMC headquarters, Rick Miller, Army Materiel Command provost marshal, said the next step is to develop a concept of implementation for Stop the Bleed and look at the capability to stand up rescue task forces throughout the command.
"We will save somebody's life doing this," Miller said. "It's not something we should do, it's something we have to do."