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Friday, 16 October 2015 09:33

Active shooter: Training for a day they hope never comes

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Training mannequin Caesar, controlled via iPad, can simulate being a shooting victim for those who train at the new Mercy EMS Tactical Training Center in Janesville. For example, trainees might have to help Caesar with breathing problems or uncontrolled bleeding. Training mannequin Caesar, controlled via iPad, can simulate being a shooting victim for those who train at the new Mercy EMS Tactical Training Center in Janesville. For example, trainees might have to help Caesar with breathing problems or uncontrolled bleeding. Terry Mayer/staff

JANESVILLE -- Active shooter incidents, such as the one that recently occurred at an Oregon community college, are becoming more common. That frightful reality is driving a new proactive training effort in Janesville.

Officials from Mercy Health System are giving medical workers, firefighters and police officers an opportunity to be prepared in case a shooting incident occurs in the area. Mercy Health System recently established the Mercy EMS Tactical Training Center at the MercyCare Building, 580 N. Washington St. in Janesville.

The training center allows law enforcement officers and emergency medical workers to participate in scenarios to practice treating victims of an active shooter situation.

"(EMS workers) have to learn how to work with law enforcement, how to walk with them, how they move and what circumstances they may encounter in those scenarios," said Christopher Wistrom, associate EMS medical director for Mercy Health System. "It takes a special type of education to get that achieved. We’re doing that here."

Janesville Police Chief David Moore said active shooter incidents occur within minutes, so it’s important that law enforcement officers and medical responders learn how to work together to treat victims in a timely manner.  Janesville officers participate in about five active shooter training events a year, Moore said.

"(The tactical training center) is going to allow the police and EMS to work side-by-side to help the victims, to help us get inside and implement safety measures," Moore said. "It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, and the Mercy tactical program will help us do our job well. We think (the training) is going to equate to less victims."

The training center features rooms that simulate different places where a shooting incident could happen, including a movie theater room featuring a large screen with a movie playing in the background, popcorn tubs and soda cups on the floor and seats and the aroma of popcorn.

"We know that we have incidents in movie theaters, so this will simulate officers responding to a shooting in a movie theater," said Jason Kelley, tactical EMS instructor. "It gives you an idea of being in an actual movie theater."

Other rooms simulate a boardroom, studio apartment, church, locker rooms, drug house, emergency room and classrooms.

"With all the recent school shootings, we had to replicate classrooms. It was almost a necessity to prepare for (a possible school shooting)," said Scott Formankiewicz, tactical EMS instructor. "We have the desks. We have the posters on the wall. We have the casualty care kit in the classroom.

"When we teach our first responders, we teach them that they have their tourniquets available. We’re going to spray-paint a piece of fabric to make it look like it’s an American flag to get the mindset that, ‘I might not have a tourniquet,’ so to think of what else they could use in the classroom as a tourniquet. They can take the makeshift flag and cut it into pieces ...

"We’re trying to encompass everything in here ... that they can potentially see or use to better get them in that mindset of ‘What else can I do?’ Heaven forbid if this were to ever happen, it would be in their mind."

The training program also includes a mannequin named Caesar that simulates a person who is bleeding to death and having problems breathing. The mannequin allows emergency crews to practice how to properly apply a tourniquet to a victim.

"The sky’s the limit (with Caesar)," said Frank Jonczyk, EMS instructor. "As you put the tourniquet on, he looks over the side that you’re applying the tourniquet, so his programming knows you’re doing something.

"He recognizes when a tourniquet is going on and when the bleeding stops and when his vital signs will improve ... that program knows everything that is going on. ... It’s true to life. If you don’t stop the bleeding, he dies."

Jay MacNeal, director of Mercy Regional Emergency Medical Services Training Centers, said participants will be able to practice each scenario as many times as necessary.

"Our focus is not practice, because practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect ... " MacNeal said. "We’ll run the simulation multiple times to make people get it right before they leave here."

The training center will be available to EMS responders and law enforcement officers throughout southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

"We have a reach of about 15 counties in Illinois, as well as parts of four or five counties in southern Wisconsin and all of Rock County, including 18 sheriff’s departments and around 100 police departments," Wistrom said.

The first training program at the center was held Oct. 15.

"The goal is to put them in a realistic environment," Kelley said. "The more realistic the training, the better off they’re going to perform under stress. The better trained they are, the better they perform."

Kelley said Mercy will continue to make improvements to the program as needed.

"It’s a new program, so there’s always going to be modifications. We’re fluid and flexible. We have to be," Kelley said. "We have to think how we can make this better and what we can do differently and what makes it more real. You get that from running the classes. Usually, the worst critics are the people who are teaching the classes. We’re never going to be satisfied. We’ll set up and think about what we can do better."

For more information about the tactical training center, call 608-741-2413 or go to ems.mercyhealthsystem.org.

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