Local safety forces continue to prepare for the worst

By Sara Hill

Uvalde, a small Texas community comparable in population to Brecksville, made headlines for not only the May mass shooting deaths of 19 local school children and two teachers, but also for how safety officials responded to and handled the tragic situation.

As leaders come forward and investigations into the incident continue, one factor is certain, according to witnesses and reports: the deaths that will forever shake the small community could have been prevented if safety personnel were better trained on how to respond to and care for victims of an active shooter situation.

Thousands of miles from Texas, in Brecksville, regular training does take place so safety officials here hopefully never have to admit they could have done better and saved more lives.

A military-based training program adopted by MetroHealth instructs participating first responders like the Brecksville Fire and Police Departments how to better work collaboratively when responding to and caring for victims of active shooter situations. The department has been participating in the Tactical Emergency Casualty Care training module for four years and counting, said Brecksville Fire Chief Nick Zamiska.

MetroHealth approached the department four years ago about participating in the training and Zamiska quickly said yes.

“Instead of waiting for an all-clear call from first officers to enter, we go in immediately with police to treat victims faster,” Zamiska said of what the training reinforces. “Two officers go in and two paramedics follow right behind to care for and treat victims quickly.”

Brecksville has also purchased special vests and helmets for their paramedics, and medical supplies to better treat gunshot victims, for a combined cost of $13,000, Zamiska said. The MetroHealth training program is provided free of charge. The biggest benefit of the training is the immediate collaboration and partnership between police pursuing the shooter and paramedics caring for victims simultaneously.

TECC training includes time in the classroom with MetroHealth EMS and Emergency Room physicians. There is also a mock active shooter situation at a designated building in the community, such as a school, church or local government building such as a city hall.

Though pretend, the environment feels very real with actors playing roles of panicked witnesses and bloodied victims in a chaotic mock environment. This year’s training with MetroHealth took place in April and July.

Zamiska said this sort of training was nonexistent when he first started his career with Brecksville 21 years ago. The training is more commonplace now as the need for it becomes all too evident.

“At first, it was very eye-opening to do this kind of training, but it provides a real sense of comfort for us, that we have the training, and we have the equipment. It’s so good that we’re doing this and I’m so glad we took Metro’s offer four years ago and ran with it,” he said. ∞