Austin mass shooting: Police response modeled training public safety leaders received in Israel years ago

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — When more than a dozen people were shot Saturday morning, ambulances couldn’t get through the Sixth Street crowd to the shooting victims right away.

Police and others already on the ground there had to take the medical response into their own hands. As the victim count grew, officers worked to keep them alive, performing CPR and applying tourniquets.

“Someone on scene or a group made a very good decision to enlist civilians and other people to move the casualties out of the zone of the confusion and to a place where they could be evacuated, and in some cases, I understand, even transported in police cars and maybe even civilian cars,” said retired Emergency Medicine Chief Dr. Pat Crocker. “This is very much in keeping with the Israeli model.”

Crocker was part of a group of Austin public safety leaders that went to Israel in 2004 to learn firsthand from experts how to best respond to mass casualty events.

“I would say some of the lessons we brought home we saw implemented and I think they save lives,” Crocker said. “I think it’s also a warning to Austin and other cities around the nation with this cascade of violence so frequently that it’s time for everyone to reevaluate their plans, make sure they’re truly integrated interdepartmentally and that they’re simple enough to execute that everybody knows what the plan is.”

Dr. Crocker says Saturday was a good example that emergency planners should build upon for the future. He explains that in order to respond well to major, devastating events, everyone involved must be flexible in straying from norms and following a different type of plan.

“Typically, we don’t react this way. It’s an orderly scene. There’s no chaos. First responders arrive, EMS arrives, APD, AFD, if necessary, and it’s very coordinated and controlled,” Crocker said. “A mass casualty system or event is happening all of the sudden and it’s chaos. It’s almost like combat, and you have to have a very simple and directed plan of response, and in this case, jump from your typical model to the mass casualty model, and that’s hard to do, I think, for people in the spur of the moment without training.”

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