The mass shooting in Las Vegas that sent hundreds of wounded to hospitals across the desert region was an unprecedented crisis that observers say will shape how emergency responders plan for future attacks.
“Coping with this number of mass casualties is unprecedented in the civilian world,” said Michael Fagel, a first responder and the founder of safety training firm Aurora Safety Services in Aurora, Ill. “We are going to be writing the book on this.”
Gunman Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest festival from his room at neighboring Mandalay Bay Hotel. More than 22,000 people were attending the country music festival and the victims were rushed to area hospitals, some taken by car and truck by other attendees. He killed at least 59 and injured about 527 as of last night, police said.
University Medical Center, the area’s only Level 1 trauma center, received 104 patients, with four dying, 12 remaining in critical condition and 40 ultimately discharged, officials said. Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, the closest trauma center to the Las Vegas strip, treated 180 patients from the shooting, with 14 dying. The Valley Health System’s six hospitals treated 228 patients, officials said.
University Medical Center spokeswoman Danita Cohen said the hospital’s training exercises “absolutely” prepared staff to deal with the rush of patients, saying nurses and clinicians set up shop right at the driveway to treat patients immediately as they came out of ambulances.
Fagel said the hospitals would have had to deal with all other trauma cases — such as car crashes or heart attacks — as they handled the influx of wounded from the concert, and that dealing with the overwhelming number of serious and fatal injuries is unlike typical emergency treatment. First responders and doctors have to triage and make snap decisions, passing over major injuries in order to treat the most serious.
“We tell our response community that you will be doing things you’ve never done before, reaching out, walking over the wounded — if you’re screaming and moaning, I’m going to step over you, you’re breathing,” Fagel said. “You’re making life-changing decisions.”
Chris Reynolds, a former fire chief and emergency management expert at American University, said the Las Vegas shooting would influence new preparations. “They’ll have to consider all scenarios. Prior to this event, one would never think that a (shooter) and automatic weapons would be perched to take out the casualties here,” Reynolds said.
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