RED OAK (CBSDFW.COM) - New tools for changing times. Police and fire departments from several southern sector cities are working together to take their active shooter training to a new level.
"You just never know when an event's going to happen so it's our responsibility through these efforts to be prepared and try to plan," said Chief Eric Thompson of the Red Oak Fire Department.
Recent training involved testing the impact on response times when firefighters are equipped with body armor. Protected by police escorts, firefighters and paramedics will be able to access still-volatile scenes and treat survivors when time means lives.
"Oh, it's seconds. Seconds matter," said Chief Thompson. "If you have someone with life threatening injuries, whether it's a gunshot wound, they can't breathe, whatever it is... seconds matter so we're trying to give people the most opportunity for rapid recovery and survival."
The first responders that gathered in Red Oak on Friday -- representing Red Oak ISD police, Glenn Heights, Midlothian, and DeSoto, to name a few -- know that the small size of their communities is no protection.
They train together so they can respond and, as a team, to an active shooter incident in any of their cities.
"If anything ever happens, we've already built a relationship. We've practiced," said Chief Eddie Burns, Glenn Heights Public Safety Director. "We're prepared for whatever comes our way."
Red Oak Police Chief Garland Wolf, who helped organized the training, said first responders learn from every mass shooting the nation endures -- and they've learned that victims die while waiting for police to determine that it's safe to allow paramedics inside. Now, they hope to be able to lessen that wait by protecting those paramedics, and by also providing more life saving medical tools for police.
"We want to be transporting patients in 15 minutes," said Chief Thompson.
As first responders entered the empty school that now acts as a professional development center for Red Oak, local theater students in full trauma makeup made the scenario seem real. Those involved were thankful that it wasn't. But, they know the lessons learned during the exercise are critical.
"A day like today isn't comfortable because we're having to do it," said Supt. Michael Goddard, Ed.D., Red Oak ISD. "But at the end of the day, knowing that we've had the communication, had the opportunity to do table talks, review what we would do, how we would handle it... I feel a little bit better if the situation does happen. My prayer is it never does."
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