“Their stories provide the fullest account yet of the scene as officers responded to one of the worst school massacres in American history.”
Officer Maryhelen McCarthy places flowers at a makeshift memorial outside St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. (AP Image)
By Ray Rivera | The International Herald Tribune
“NEWTOWN, Conn. — The stories of those first on the scene at the killings of 20 students in Connecticut in December reveal the deep stress that lingers.
“The gunfire ended; now it was so quiet they could hear broken glass and bullet casings scrape under their boots. The smell of gunpowder filled the air. The officers turned down their radios: if there was still a shooter, they did not want to give away their position.
“They found two women first, their bodies lying on the lobby floor. This was real. But nothing could prepare them for what they found next, inside two classrooms.
”‘One look, and your life was absolutely changed,’ said Michael McGowan, one of the first police officers to arrive at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, as a gunman, in the space of minutes, killed 20 first-graders and six adult staff members.
“Officer McGowan was among seven Newtown police officers who sat down with The New York Times, most speaking to the media for the first time. Taken together, their stories provide the fullest account yet of the scene as officers responded to one of the worst school massacres in American history.
“One child had a faint pulse but didn’t survive. Another was found, bloody but unhurt, amid her dead classmates. Teachers were so protective that they had to be coaxed by officers before opening doors. And the officers themselves – many of them fathers – instinctively used soothing daddy voices to guide terrified children to safety.
“The stories reveal the deep stress that lingers for police officers who, until Dec. 14, had focused energy on keeping order in a low-crime corner of suburbia. To continue reading this article at PoliceOne.com, click here.
(CNN) — “The dead can’t speak. Their cell phones do.
“And, for police, firefighters and paramedics, the incessant chirping, bleating and incongruously cheerful boom box beats of victims’ cell phones comprise a soundtrack of disaster.
“It happened at the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, a commuter train crash in Los Angeles the next year, the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, last July and, again, at the night club fire in Brazil that killed 231 people on Sunday.
“The incessantly ringing phones, and the realization that someone is desperately trying to reach someone else who is now dead, short-circuits the psychological defenses first responders need to do their jobs, said Jim Crabtree, a registered nurse who helps train them for the Los Angeles County Emergency Management Services Agency.
“‘It starts ringing and it becomes an instant reminder that this person is human, that they have friends and family who care,’ he said.
“It also leaves responders with an uneasy feeling they’re keeping a secret from the victim’s loved ones, Crabtree said.
“Crabtree first ran across the issue following the Virginia Tech shooting, in which a lone gunman, a student, killed 32 people.
“Some first responders couldn’t get the sound of ringing cell phones out of their ears, psychologists Christopher Flynn of Virginia Tech and Dennis Heitzmann of Penn State wrote in a follow up journal article.”
“Disaster resilience comes with practice, whether it’s practice from experiencing previous disasters or conducting disaster exercises. It also comes from growing strong social networks. And from the guidance of determined and collaborative leaders.
“These are among the lessons learned by the authors of an upcoming National Academies report called Increasing National Resilience to Hazards and Disasters, which was commissioned to gain a broad, multidisciplinary perspective of how to best strengthen national resilience. Four of the report’s 13 committee members spoke about their experiences compiling the report at the Natural Hazards Workshop last week.
“Before the committee could begin to determine how to strengthen resilience, though, they had to tackle the oft-contested topic of what resilience is. They opted for a broad definition: the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, or more successfully adapt to actual or potential adverse events.
“With that in mind, the committee made several site visits to New Orleans; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Southern California to assess factors that increased a community’s ability to recover from a disaster. They found that strong social networks, previous disaster experience, exercising disaster preparedness, and strong local leadership were critical components in fostering resilience.
“One of the strongest examples of multiple qualities of resilience was the Vietnamese community in Village de l’Est, New Orleans. The small community of fishermen is largely made up of survivors of the Vietnam War and their children and grandchildren. That shared history of survival—along with solid social networks stemming from a common heritage, occupation, and language—was manifested in the ability and will to rise from the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina.
“‘Members of the Vietnamese community have a collective identity as survivors,’ said Monica Schoch-Spana of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Biosecurity. ‘They viewed the destruction as a way to rebuild the community even stronger. They consider themselves a self-reliant people who were able to build new lives after leaving Vietnam.’
“That proved to be true as the people relied on their own social capital to rebuild. Many of the Vietnamese fishermen lent each other money to get back on their feet. Those who were successful in turn lent more people money, and the community members didn’t have to rely on scarce bank loans to reestablish their businesses, Schoch-Spana said.
“That momentum spread to the rest of Village de l’Est as well, and unlike many New Orleans communities, the city was able recover more quickly and mostly on its own.
“‘It had a positive influence on the rest of the community,’ Schoch-Spana said. ‘It distinguished itself by a high a high rate of return and a rapid rate of rebuilding with little government assistance.’
“Increasing National Resilience to Hazards and Disasters is expected to be released August 1.”
The folks at Fully Involved Fire have posted the audio files of the emergency communications from last week’s mass casualty incident in Aurora, Colorado at the Website; the files include fire dispatch and law enforcement dispatch. These files are great “lessons learned” resources … superb emergency communications in a “low probability – high consequence” never gonna’ happen here critical incident.
Fully Involved Fire provides exceptional simulations and training scenarios.
“(CNN) — Hospitals near Aurora, Colorado, were flooded with victims after a movie theater shooting Friday morning.
“An Aurora Fire Department call log reveals the urgency of the situation.
“‘If they’re dead just leave them,’ a voice tells a fire department responder who reported that police said there may be a number of people dead inside the theater. ‘We’re in a mass casualty situation at this time. Please make sure that you guys set up some kind of transport officer over there that can contact the hospitals so we don’t overload one.’
“The emergency department at Denver Health Hospital was chaotic as staff prepared for the arrival of patients from the shooting, said Dr. Christopher Colwell, director of emergency medical services there. The hospital received seven victims, but called in extra personnel and was ready to take in more patients.
“‘You’re not sure how they’re going to arrive to you, so you prepare for the worst,’ he said.
“Gunshot wound patients are fairly regular at Denver Health, although not on this scale, he said. In a mass shooting situation, staff assess the severity of the wounds and what steps must be taken — some need to go straight to the operating room, others can wait, still others may not require surgery.
“Colwell was a physician who treated victims at the scene of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. Five patients were transferred to Denver Health; all survived.
“‘We have obviously done a lot of training exercises since then to try to prepare for an event like that,’ Colwell said.
“Dr. Frank Lansville, medical director of emergency services at Aurora South Hospital, told CNN his hospital had seen 18 patients so far, 12 of whom suffered from gunshot wounds. There were several tear gas victims who were stable, he said. They had been seen, decontaminated and discharged. ‘The others had horrific gunshot wounds to various parts of their body,’ he said.
“At Aurora Medical Center, the first victim of the movie theater shooting came in before the staff had even heard about the attack, said Tracy Lauzon, director of EMS and trauma services at the hospital.” Click here to continue reading this CNN report.