After Coral Springs Police officers cleared the movie theater of the active threat and gave chase to the gunman, a rescue task force made up of both police officers and firefighters advanced methodically toward the wounded.
In a tight formation, the firefighters advanced, covered on four sides by police officers who had their weapons drawn.
This drill simulated an active-shooter and mass-casualty scenario, calling for police and fire rescue personnel to work together to reach victims.
“They get into this line of work, because they want to be that person that goes into that dangerous situation and is able to make a difference,” said Officer Scott Mitchell.
Last week, Mitchell helped run the active-shooter drill at the Coral Springs Fire Academy. A firearms and tactics trainer for Coral Springs Police, he helped guide officers from his department alongside firefighters from the Margate, Coral Springs and Tamarac fire departments, through several hours of active-shooter and mass-casualty training.
Since January, western Broward County law enforcement and fire rescue agencies have been meeting weekly at the academy for the specialized training. The goal is for every officer and firefighter in each participating department to complete the training by the end of the year.
In addition to training for active-shooter and other mass-casualty scenarios, Broward fire departments are set to receive thousands of dollars in specialized equipment.
The Davie Fire Rescue Department, acting as the lead agency in a county emergency medical services grant application item approved by the state of Florida, will distribute $73,500 in mass-casualty incident equipment to the fire departments in Margate, Plantation, Sunrise, and nine other cities.
Last month, the Plantation City Council approved adding the mass-casualty incident equipment grant funding to the county’s emergency medical service agreement.
The grant provides for 51 backpacks with equipment to be distributed among the participating agencies, according to the County Commission resolution.
Inside the mass-casualty incident kits, Broward fire departments will find triage ribbons for identifying victims, specialized field tourniquets to combat severe bleeding, and other tools, according to Plantation Fire Department Battalion Chief Joel Gordon.
Like the Margate, Coral Springs and Tamarac fire departments, the Plantation Fire Department has been training in active-shooter scenarios as part of a countywide effort. In photos provided to The Forum, Plantation firefighters can be seen using green ribbons to tag children with minor injuries.
That drill took place inside a classroom in December 2013, about one year after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newton, Conn.
“These active-shooter situations that have occurred in the last couple of years, we’ve looked at them all,” Gordon said.”It’s essential that, [if] we get into a situation, we rapidly identify critically injured patients and get them out of the environment and transported to the hospital.”
Having county departments follow the same protocol and use the same equipment is important for their ability to provide mutual aid to each other, Gordon said.
“We’re developing a countywide protocol, so that no matter where the situation occurs, the process for doing things is the same,” he said.
For Mitchell, the fact that police and fire departments are training together is exciting, because it rarely happened before this year.
“This is unprecedented to have police and fire working this long throughout an entire day together,” he said. “It’s important for the policemen to see what the firemen are doing, what their job entails, and just as important for the firemen to see what the police officers do.”
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