Tulsa, Okla. -- At a scene with multiple patients, the first emergency crews to arrive will get right to work with triage and treating patients, with multiple agencies working off their own protocols. But soon, EMSA and the Tulsa Fire Department hope to establish a joint protocol that will dictate how those mass casualty situations are handled with the agencies working in concert.
"We've literally been working together for decades," said Chris Stevens, EMSA public information officer.
"This is the first time we've put it together." Jason Whitlow, field operations supervisor with EMSA, said that responses to mass casualty events—anything from car crashes to large events like Oktoberfest or a building collapse—could sometimes result in duplication of services to patients or something could be missed if someone thinks it is already covered. "We all have the same goal in the end. We all have roads to get to that point," Whitlow said.
The new training protocol will make sure the Fire Department and EMSA's roads can easily merge to the same point of quick, patient-centric care. The protocol would establish the first responder at the scene to begin working the medical needs and create specific jobs as more arrive. Once supervisors arrive from both agencies, they will "stand shoulder to shoulder and make patient decisions," Clark said. Just over a year ago, Deputy Fire Chief Scott Clark said the two agencies began working on establishing those guidelines. The first steps of implementing it were Tuesday, where the supervisors began working through the protocol before establishing it with the responders in the field. "The way to really test our thoughts is to put field people together and see how it works," Clark said. Last fall, such a meeting may have been difficult. The Fire Department was bidding to take over ambulance service for the city, but EMSA was awarded the contract in October. Clark said the two agencies are putting aside whatever differences they had to establish this joint protocol. Clark said it could take a year for the two agencies to fully implement the joint protocol.