Relationships between police and fire departments can range from friendly rivalries to downright acrimony. In Las Vegas, officials are confident that an innovative effort requiring both agencies to train together to respond to active-shooter incidents saved countless lives in the massacre that left 58 dead, the Washington Post reports. Fire departments traditionally have waited on the sidelines of shooting scenes until police declare it safe for medics to go in and treat victims. In some cases, including mass shootings, that resulted in wounded patients bleeding to death even though medics could have saved them with immediate aid.
Learning lessons from the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 and at a movie theater in Aurora, Co., in 2012, Nevada’s first responders decided they should work while under fire. “We saw from the reports of how these people died and the lack of interaction with the police departments and we knew we had to fix that,” Clark County, Nv., Fire Chief Greg Cassell said Thursday. Police and fire agencies in Nevada have been working together since 2010 to develop concerted responses to critical incidents, but Sunday was the first time their years of training and drills deploying “rescue task forces” played out in real life. Sixteen task forces raced into the concert venue the night gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Each task force included four to six armed police officers, who created a perimeter around three paramedics, said Roy Session of Clark County fire operations. The medics treated and transported the wounded to ambulances under the blanket of safety those officers provided, moving in unison with police from patient to patient. “What we discovered in Columbine and Aurora is that people were laying and dying waiting for help,” Session said. “This team was trying to avoid that.”