It’s 2 a.m. when you’re dispatched to the scene of a suspected overdose in a suicide attempt. There’s a garlic-like odor as you enter the house, where you find an obtunded man in his 40s lying on the floor. It’s obvious he’s been vomiting.
Managing multiple patients at a mass casualty incident (MCI) can be a real challenge. During an MCI response, resources are taxed and you may need to quickly triage the patients to ensure that care is provided first to those most in need. From a legal standpoint, the law generally recognizes that MCIs are not “business as usual” and that it might not be possible to provide the same level of patient care—including documentation of that care—as you would with a single patient or other typical EMS response.
We all wait for the “Big One”—that natural or man-made disaster we hope never arrives but secretly hope we’re called to respond to if it does. When it happens, if your organization hasn’t taken the time to properly prepare, you might be able to limp along. But you won’t have the ability to create an empowered team with a single focus and the many arms necessary to do the job, which is saving lives while keeping your personnel in a safe operating environment.
This winter, more than seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the city found itself in the cross hairs of a different kind of threat–call it Superstorm Mardi Gras/Super Bowl XLVII. The two events overlapped one another, bringing more than 1 million visitors to New Orleans for parades, parties and pageantry.
Recent mass shooting/active-shooter incidents, such as the Aurora, Colo., theater, Sandy Hook Elementary School and Webster, N.Y. first responder shootings, have emphasized the importance that responders in the U.S. become aware of how to respond to these mass violence situations. Regardless of where you work, you and your agency will likely face the challenge of responding to incidents that may include acts of large-scale violence toward civilians, as well as acts of violence toward responders.
Like most of you, I was glued to the news on April 15 after being alerted about the Boston Marathon bombings. The scenes were horrific as they played out live on every news network and social media site. Because of the preplanned, scheduled media coverage of the marathon and the strategic location of camera crews at the finish line, the world got an unprecedented look at one of the most demanding mass casualty incidents ever managed in the U.S.
It was Sept. 16, 1903, more than 100 years ago, when an unnamed hurricane made landfall in New Jersey. Dubbed the “Vagabond Hurricane,” the storm struck Atlantic City with 80 mph winds and caused $8 million in damage (equivalent to $200 million today after inflation).
An update on developing a national guideline for mass casualty triage was provided at the annual meeting of the National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) in Bonita Springs, Fla., including announcement of a free online training resource. The drive for a national standard was launched in a special section of the April-June 2004 edition of Prehospital Emergency Care. The available literature was reviewed and dispatch methodology assessed.
Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, Calif., undertook a historic EMS feat of transporting 130 patients via ambulance to their new, state-of-the-art medical facility. Rural/Metro Ambulance, one of the largest ambulance providers in the nation, undertook the transports with its subsidiary, Pacific Ambulance, and had all patients transported in about nine hours on Sunday, Aug.19.
After Superstorm Sandy made landfall on Monday, Oct. 29, JEMS Editor-in-Chief A.J. Heightman’s cell phone rang with reports of the aftermath. Hospitals were landlocked, and EMS headquarters were flooded. He also heard stories of responders’ family members who were trapped by water and had to be rescued or evacuated while their dedicated loved ones were at work providing EMS care to the thousands of other citizens affected by the storm.