SANTA FE (KRQE) – The first few minutes of an active shooter situation can be scary and chaotic.
While police officers work quickly to secure the school, mall, business or other place that’s become a crime scene, firefighters and medical personnel can be stuck on the sidelines.
“In the past, they would probably stage several blocks away so they’re not in danger from the active shooter while law enforcement actually clears the scene,” said Robert Sanchez, vice president of IAFF Local 244.
But that means many critically-hurt victims are left waiting until it’s safe enough for them to get help.
“Fire and rescue can’t go into the crime scene immediately to save whoever might be savable,” said Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque.
Because of that, the Bernalillo County Fire Department is planning to work with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office to better prepare for active shooter situations.
The idea is that EMTs can be trained to go in with law enforcement as a team. While police officers secure parts of the scene, paramedics would follow close behind wearing bulletproof vests. Those firefighters could then triage and treat the most seriously hurt before the threat from the shooter has been neutralized.
Sen. Padilla has introduced a bill earmarking $50,000 to BCFD to pay for that training.
The current plan is to start training in March, using school buildings if possible. The goal is to run through three full mock active shooter incidents by the end of the year.
“This is a great pilot to actually understand how this could work for the entire state of New Mexico,” Padilla said.
Sanchez says another benefit is that EMTs are closer to police officers in case they’re injured by the active shooter.
A September 2013 FEMA report recommended fire departments better train for active shooter situations in a similar manner to what BCFD is planning on doing.