Having a plan

County emergency management coordinator talks local mass casualty training, response


A mass shooting at a Florida high school Wednesday left 17 dead and a community shattered; Marshall County Emergency Management Coordinator Kim Elder said Marshall County emergency responders continue to train for such a tragic event.

“Whether it’s fire, EMS or hospitals or law enforcement, they all have to have plans and guidelines,” she said. “We exercise those guidelines every year, hopefully more than once a year.”

A large-scale mass casualty training in July of 2017 brought together emergency management services (EMS) personnel, firefighter-emergency management technicians (EMTs), law enforcement officers and more. The training took place at the Marshalltown Community College campus.

Elder said it is important to continually revise and improve such plans to ensure the best possible response to a nightmare situation of a mass shooting or other mass casualty event.

“Obviously, a plan that’s just thrown in the corner is no good; you have to actually use that,” she said.

Such training is also important in order for the large number of responders, from various jurisdictions and with different roles, to work together smoothly.

“Law enforcement are used to going in with their head on a swivel, where they’re aware of their surroundings, and their taught to be constantly looking and trying to figure out what’s going on, whereas fire and EMS didn’t always do that,” Elder said. “We’re training to do that better, we’re training to work with each other better on that, because when they go into that [mass casualty] situation, they don’t need that tunnel vision.”

During a more routine call, such as an injury, she said first responders immediately seek out and go to whoever is in need of treatment when they arrive on-site.

“We need to have our head on a swivel, this is an active situation; do we have someone who is a violent intruder? Do we need to be watching for that?” Elder said, adding EMTs must also watch for hazardous materials and other environmental threats. “We need to not just walk in and make ourself another patient or another target.”

She said large-scale mass casualty training is also important for law enforcement officers.

“Law enforcement hasn’t always thought about bringing in these [entry] teams with them as they go in to take care of a threat,” Elder said. “Now, we’ve learned that bringing a team in to help assist those wounded victims during a large-scale event is important … so how do we incorporate them in without getting them hurt or killed?”

In any mass casualty event, she said good communication among all entities, from police to EMTs to hospital staff, is critical.

Additionally, Elder said the trainings familiarize first responders with their peers from surrounding counties, who would be called in to help if a mass casualty call came in.

“It’s not county lines, there’s no lines when it comes to an emergency of any sort,” she said, adding six surrounding counties are involved in such training and would be called in case of a large-scale event. “Communication is key.”


Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com