Interim Fire Chief Richard Harris is proud to announce a successful morning of training that Topsfield firefighters took part in, the morning of Sunday April 23. Topsfield FD sent three members to Masconomet Regional High School to work with police officers and firefighters and EMTs/Paramedics from Topsfield, Middleton, and Boxford as ongoing preparedness in the event of an active shooter drill. The trend nationally has been for law enforcement, fire/EMS personnel, and even school staff and students to take a more proactive approach to making an active shooter scene safe and secure as possible. What this entails from a Police/Fire viewpoint is that instead of setting up outside and awaiting the arrival of a SWAT team that will typically happen at least 30 minutes after the call is placed, first arriving units are trained to be aggressive and assertive in order to end the threat quickly. This means police units are entering the building more quickly and at the very least, isolating a shooter or team of shooters while incoming officers cover fire and EMS crews who take an aggressive role in rapid extrication and potential treatment of victims. Prior to the current standard, EMS and fire personnel would not enter the building until it was cleared and the threat neutralized. Studies of cases like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, and Virginia Tech prove that this is not a beneficial tactic to save lives. This coupled with significant amounts of research and data gathering from gunshot wounds out of the Middle East have lead to a much more assertive method of treating life threatening injuries in the “warm” zone to give the patient time to be extricated and treated outside the warm zone where it is totally safe. EMS and fire crews enter the building under the protection of armed officers, enabling the officers to focus on safety of responders and victims should another threat arise, and treatment to be initiated quickly as traumatic injuries are an extremely time sensitive medical condition that result in death of not stabilized emergently. This type of interoperability training is essential for a successful outcome of the event. As if an active shooter scene at a school wasn’t hectic enough, Chief Harris points out that many of the police and firefighters in the tri-town will almost certainly have a personal or familial connection with victims. Training is the ounce of prevention we need to ensure that both disciplines (police and fire/EMS) are able to prepare and work seamlessly when an event like this happens. All participants in the drill where several scenarios were run with live patients and “simunition” firearms to make the scene as real as possible. Police units were able to practice tactical formations and strategies to clear a building with an active shooter and possibly engage him/her while fire/EMS practiced skills like field triage and tourniquet application. Chief Harris commends all agencies in working well together as well as steadily improving throughout the day, honing their skills and working together as these large scale incidents prove extremely difficult for small towns with limited staffing. Research shows that active shooter events in schools are far more likely to occur in small or medium sized communities rather than urban areas. Chief Harris thanks all the citizens of Topsfield for remaining supportive as the public safety personnel of all three tri-town communities work to ensure that the communities are kept safe.
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