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Area police and safety personnel take part in active shooter training drill



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Bonnie Stevens of Plymouth Fire Department was paired with Thornton Police Officer Dan Gilman to emergency methods on packing gunshot and knife wounds during an active shooter drill at Campton Elementary school. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
February 27, 2019
CAMPTON – Thirty-eight members of police, fire and ambulance departments in the Pemi-Baker, Newfound and White Mountain regions took part in a special training program at Campton Elementary School on Feb. 16, where they learned life-saving skills and tactical information on secure ways to work together in the event of an active shooter event.

Taking part in the all day training session were representatives of Campton-Thornton Fire and EMS along with police officers from both Campton and Thornton; Plymouth Fire Department; Ashland fire and police departments; Bristol Fire and EMS; along with emergency responders from Lin-Wood, Littleton, and the Franconia Ambulance Service.

"This has been really interesting," said Kate Varin, an EMT from Franconia. "We thought it was great that Campton-Thornton invited those of us from up north to this training that we might not otherwise have received."

CTFD Fire Chief Dan Defossess explained that the opportunity for the multi-department training session was made possible through a Homeland Security grant. The grant not only allowed staff from N.H. Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services to lead the session, but paid for the participants' time as well.

"For us this was a big deal. It's all about things we wouldn't normally have access to," Defossess said. "Every day, you hear about things like this (mass shootings) happening and we want to be prepared."

Gerard Christian is the Clinical Systems Program Coordinator for NHFST&EMS and said the Campton training session was the largest they have held so far in bringing police, firefighters and EMTs together.

The day began with classroom sessions comprised of a mixture of police, fire and EMS personnel. While police would be involved in any initial confrontation with an attacker, known as a "Hot Zone," they would then need to protect emergency medical personnel who would be called in to assist any victims of the incident. That joint response area is considered a "Warm Zone," a place outside the preeminent "Hot Zone," where immediate danger is not perceived, but security is still required.

During the course of the morning's training sessions, police were shown ways in which they could provided immediate care for victims before bringing them to the "Warm Zone." There the officers would continue to watch over EMS crews as they provided any immediate emergency treatment to the wounded before carrying them out for transportation to a nearby hospital.

While some of the participants listened in on ways to address an active shooter situation, others from both spectrums of emergency response learned some other basic care techniques they may need during such an event

Realistic looking body parts and blood were provided so police, firefighters and EMTs could see a simulation of injuries they would most likely experience during a mass casualty event. Instructors demonstrated methods on how to effectively pack bleeding wounds, like those sustained through gunshots or knives, ways to apply "chest seals" to treat situations such as a collapsed lung, and how to address basic airway management.

Participants then moved on for more comprehensive training in how police would bring emergency medical personnel into a "Warm Zone" to care for any victims. The procedure used is called "stacking," where armed police officers would guard the front of a crew of EMTs and paramedics, while another armed officer watches from the rear. Medical personnel can then make a rapid assessment of the victim, load them onto a stretcher if necessary, and carry them, by police escort, to an awaiting ambulance.

"This is all about linking security and medical forces together in an emergency situation," Christian said. "With this training, everybody gets an idea about what the other does."

After a lunch break, members of Scouting Troop 58 of Campton-Thornton and Waterville Valley joined the drill by stepping in to be "victims" of a potential active shooter inside the school. Defosses said one girl in particular gave them all a chilling realization of what a true emergency of that sort would be like.

"That girl screaming gave it a little bit of reality. One of the moms that were present got teary eyed over it. There were definitely some emotional moments as we did that drill," said Defossess. "The afternoon brought everything we learned over the course of the morning together. It was a great training session. Our take-away about this is that what we learned can be applicable to other events, should they ever occur."

The chief said there was a lot of great feedback from those who attended the session and he hopes they can hold another area training program in the near future.

"Things like this can happen anywhere at any time and we all need to be prepared," Defossess said.

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