How Colo. shooting massacre aftermath prepared hospitals

(CBS News) DENVER -- It was one year ago this coming Saturday that first responders rushed to the scene of the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed and 70 others were hurt. Today, hospitals across the country have learned lessons from the incident.

As seen on a surveillance video, the first wounded arrived at the University of Colorado Hospital in squad cars because ambulances could not get close to the shooting scene.

From this video, the first wounded from the Colo. theater shooting from last year arrived at the University of Colorado Hospital in squad cars because ambulances could not get close to the shooting scene.
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The University of Colorado had trained for what was then considered a mass casualty event -- getting up to 12 patients in an hour.

But that night, 23 arrived in an hour.

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"These are injuries that are not common in emergency medicine," said Dr. Richard Zane, who runs the emergency room. "They are common in war."

Dr. Richard Zane runs the ER at University of Colorado Hospital.
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Zane said it had taught them lessons, like having an entire trauma team on one speed dial number and stocking a lot more supplies.

So have other hospitals learned from Zane to have a lot more of the stuff on hand? "The very thought of having 23 critically ill or injured patients all at the same time makes them rethink all of this," Zane said.

And on April 15 -- the day of the Boston Marathon bombing -- Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital faced an eerie coincidence.

"We had 23 patients in the first hour," said Dr. Ron Walls, who runs the emergency room at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "We had never drilled for more than 12 to 14 before Aurora."

Walls had studied Aurora's response and had already made changes, like having more equipment on hand and more operating rooms ready. Because of Aurora, Brigham and Women's was better prepared.

"Every patient who arrived that day," said Walls, "got care that would be virtually identical to the care they would have received if they had been the only patient to arrive that day."

Dr. Ron Walls oversees the ER at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. The hospital took in several patients around the time of Boston Marathon bombing.
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Another lesson was a critical need for counseling for emergency room staff -- doctors and nurses overwhelmed by seeing and treating so many patients.

Walls acknowledged the experience lingers. "We don't just expect people to suck it up and move on now. We know they need help. We want them to understand that they need help, and different people need different amounts of help."

The two hospitals share one more testament to preparedness from these two events: Everyone who reached their emergency rooms in that first hour alive had survived.

  • Barry Petersen

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