BARRON COUNTY -- In the event of an active shooter, the primary objective of law enforcement is to rapidly engage and stop the threat. Once the shooter has been neutralized, officers must continue searching the location for the potential of additional shooters. Once a thorough search has been completed, the location will be classified as “all-clear”, which then allows Fire and EMS responders to safely enter the scene to begin triaging and extracting victims.
Depending on the size and layout of the location, it can take a significant amount of time to receive the all-clear. Officers are searching as fast as possible, however they’re tasked with clearing multiple rooms that may be located on several levels. In a traditional response to an active shooter incident, Fire and EMS responders must wait in a nearby staging area until the location is declared all-clear. Meanwhile, critically injured patients are still bleeding inside the facility. It’s been proven in multiple active shooter incidents across the nation that the majority of victims die from blood loss before the building can be deemed all-clear and safe for responders to enter and initiate rescue.
The purpose of a Rescue Task Force (RTF) is to significantly reduce the timeframe for rescue personnel to access critically injured victims by creating a specialized team of emergency responders trained to safely enter specific areas of the building that have just been cleared by law enforcement, instead of waiting for the entire building search to be completed.
Even through these specific areas have just been searched and deemed clear by officers, RTF responders still wear protective ballistic gear such as bulletproof vests and helmets. Before entering the facility, RTF members also partner with law enforcement officers (which are dedicated to protecting RTF Entry Teams) and report to the onscene incident commander. Once officers have cleared an area such as a specific floor or wing, RTF Entry Teams enter that area (still under the protection of partnered law enforcement officers), to locate critically injured patients, provide airway management and bleeding control, then quickly extract patients back to a safe zone called a triage area. From there, patients can then be transported to area trauma centers by helicopters and ambulances.
As the number of active shooter casualties continue to increase, specialized RTF responders give victims the best opportunity for survival by providing Tactical Emergency Casualty Care and rapid extraction. With safety remaining the top priority during these types of incidents, it’s important to remember that RTF Entry Teams are always attached to dedicated law enforcement officers for their protection and only enter the scene after all known threats have been eliminated or isolated.
In addition to the 30-person countywide medical first responder team, Barron County Emergency Services has recently created a countywide Rescue Task Force (RTF). This specialized response team consists of 20 local Fire, EMS, and Law Enforcement responders that have completed an additional 16-hour hands-on training course followed by an active shooter mass casualty exercise. Over the next several months, these RTF members will train with individual law enforcement agencies throughout the county to further enhance team response capabilities. These trainings will be held at specific facilities to increase familiarity such as schools, hospitals, businesses, churches, and other heavily populated locations. Future trainings will also be provided that specialize in trauma care, mass casualty triage, and victim extraction.
To protect RTF team members, 12 ballistic gear sets have been purchased and will be staged at fire departments throughout the county to minimize the time needed to get them onscene of an incident. Each gear set cost $1,500 and consists of one bulletproof vest & helmet, personal safety equipment, medical supplies for airway management and bleeding control, and rapid victim extraction tools such as carrying litters and webbing.
A goal has been established to stage four RTF gear sets at fire departments in close proximity to each school in Barron County. In the event of a worst case scenario, this would provide protective equipment for one 4-person RTF Entry Team to quickly begin rescuing victims until additional gear sets can arrive from neighboring fire departments. To meet this goal, an additional 28 gear sets are needed at a total cost of $42,000. This is a long-term goal as Barron County Emergency Services is a non-profit organization with funding dependent entirely upon the generous donations from our community members.
A special thanks to the Barron County Sheriff’s Department and the Barron/Rusk Emergency Response Team (ERT) for their support and assistance in getting Barron County’s Rescue Task Force (RTF) team certified and operational.
For more information on Barron County Emergency Services, please visit us at www.EmergencyServicesBC.org