In light of a recent string of shootings and other violent incidents across the nation, first responders in Merced County continue to train together to improve collaboration between agencies.
Last week departments including Atwater police, Los Banos police, Merced police, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Riggs Ambulance and Merced County Emergency Medical Services participated in a Unified Response to Violent Crimes training. According to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jeremy Rahn, Thursday’s training was the 19th in a three-month period.
The sessions focus on various types of large-scale incidents from mass shootings to a serious bus crash.
“There are so many variations for multicasualty type calls,” Rahn said.
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During Thursday’s training, emergency responders participated in an active-shooter scenario. Divided into groups, the participants had a couple of minutes to devise a plan to enter the building and rescue injured patients.
Rahn explained that historically, fire and emergency medical agencies have staged out of the area while law enforcement takes over a scene. After the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, responders realized the need for a more collaborative approach for better patient care.
“After Columbine there came a lot of studies and a lot of scrutiny on ‘why didn’t we get in there and take care of some of these patients,’ ” Rahn said. “That’s kind of when things began to change.”
Two years ago a committee, formed of emergency managers in Merced County, began meeting and setting up training. The goal, Rahn said, is to come up with guidelines in the event such a situation occurs in Merced.
“When these types of incidents like mass shootings started to occur, we realized it takes a considerable amount of time for us (fire and medical) to go in,” said Jim Clark, Merced County emergency medical services administrator. “So we work with law enforcement to be able to get in closer and quicker.”
The training sessions and meetings have helped boost the relationship among the different agencies, Clark said, leading to a better understanding of how they can help each other.
Merced police Lt. Chris Goodwin said he is aware of the public concern of active shootings, especially heightened since the San Bernardino shooting that left 14 dead.
“Our goal is for it not to happen, but that’s an unrealistic goal because we see it happen weekly,” Goodwin said. “So we have to be prepared, get everybody involved and on the same page.”