The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.
If the unthinkable happens, Barron County officials want to have thought about it.
That’s the reason Barron County Emergency Services recently created a countywide Rescue Task Force capable of responding in the event of a potential incident involving an active shooter.
The 20-person task force, comprised of volunteer responders from local fire, law enforcement and emergency medical services agencies, has undergone a 16-hour training program and an active shooter mass casualty exercise in May. Members also will train with individual law enforcement agencies at schools, hospitals, businesses, churches and other highly populated sites throughout the county over the next several months to enhance their capabilities.
With the number of mass shootings on the rise nationwide, Barron County officials felt they needed to be better prepared in case the disturbing trend ever strikes west-central Wisconsin, said county emergency management specialist Julie Skinner, who isn’t aware of any such incidents ever occurring in Barron County.
“It’s a preparedness thing. Hopefully we’ll never need it, but this way if we needed it, we’d have it,” Skinner said of the specialized training.
Barron County Emergency Services director Mike Judy explained in a news release that the purpose of the RTF is to significantly reduce the timeframe for rescue personnel to access critically injured victims. The specialized team of emergency responders are trained to safely enter specific areas of a building just cleared by law enforcement instead of waiting for an entire building to be cleared.
By contrast, in a traditional response to an active shooter incident, fire and EMS responders must wait in a staging area until law enforcement officers complete a thorough search of an entire building for potential additional shooters and declare the location “all-clear.”
“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,” Judy said in the release.
As the number of active shooter casualties continues to increase, specialized RTF responders give victims the best opportunity for survival by providing tactical emergency casualty care and rapid extraction, Judy added.
RTF responders still wear protective ballistic gear such as bulletproof vests and helmets when entering cleared areas and remain under the protection of law enforcement.
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 on the scene of a potential incident. The sets cost $1,500 apiece and consist of one bulletproof vest and helmet, personal safety equipment, medical supplies for airway management and bleeding control, and rapid victim extraction tools.
Officials from the nonprofit Barron County Emergency Services have set a goal to place four RTF gear sets at fire departments near each school in Barron County.
In the event of a worst-case scenario, that would provide protective equipment for one four-person RTF team to quickly begin rescuing victims until additional gear sets could arrive from neighboring fire departments. To meet that long-term goal, an additional 28 gear sets would be needed at a total cost of $42,000, with funding dependent on donations from community members.
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