by Mary Rains
Mille Lacs Health System
Shootings and bombings are a part of the news cycle narrative from time to time. Typically those involved are shocked that such an thing could occur in their school, place of business, or at a community activity. But occur they do, so preparation for response to that type of event is smart and can save lives.
On May 16 and 17, Mille Lacs Health System hosted a 3 ECHO training event, which stands for Enter, Evaluate and Evacuate. Sixty-four participants representing agencies such as law enforcement from several Central Minnesota counties and cities; emergency services from MLHS as well as other surrounding healthcare facilities and fire firefighters gathered together on Friday evening and Saturday for the training.
The mock drills took place at the (empty) Crosier classroom building, which MLHS purchased last year. Training officer Ron Robinson said everyone went through classroom education on Friday, and then on Saturday were put through multiple rotations of different kinds of scenarios to “keep getting better at it.” Eighteen different types of scenarios, with increasing complexity, were in the mix. Various kinds of challenges, with feedback after each one, helped participants gain the kind of experience needed for response to sudden hostile events such as blasts or shootings.
The “battle rhythm” called for the mock event to go from inside to outside. Volunteers from the local high schools’ National Honor Societies were playing both victims and “active shooters” so that participants could deal with real people in the training.
Mille Lacs Health System Emergency Services Director Peter Lindbloom said there are new techniques to respond to hostile events, with the goal being to save lives. “Establishing secure corridors, rapid patient assessment, moving quickly, having casualty collection points for the injured and then getting them to ambulances and hospitals ¬– it all comes down to ‘time is lives’,” Lindbloom said. “Minutes matter.”
Guns armed with “simunition” (fake ammunition which shoots a tiny amount of paint) were drawn; fake smoke, loud sirens, flashing lights in darkness as well as plastic body parts helped to simulate what responders could have to deal with; the “actors” played their roles and displayed different types of injuries; a casualty collection point was established; and the experts critiqued each simulation so that everyone could learn how to do it better the next time around.
The training was made possible in part by a grant from the Central Minnesota EMS program. Marion Larson, coordinator, said that many of the participants work with one another in different capacities throughout the year. “But we don’t get opportunities to train together like this,” Larson said. “We are so grateful that MLHS hosted the training. Anytime we can get a chance to do this type of thing, we are very lucky.”
Dawn Olson, an MLHS nurse and EMT, said the training helped her get a feel of a crisis unfolding, and what to do to work more effectively in a team when under that type of pressure.
The goal, said trainer Robinson, is to simulate a real-life, real-time hostile situation. “You fight like you train,” he noted. “So we’re training hard.”