MANHASSET, NY – Borrowing lifesaving lessons from combat medics, police officers from Long Island and Queens recently participated in an education program at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) that trained them in emergency interventions in the face of an active mass casualty shooting or bombing.
NSUH Executive Director Alessandro Bellucci, MD said the hospital and the North Shore-LIJ Health System’s Center for Emergency Medical Services helped organize the training, recognizing that police officers are often the first responders to shootings and other mass casualty incidents. The training further enhances the collaboration between the hospital and law enforcement agencies.
The half-day course, taught by U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel Stephen Rush, MD, U.S. Air Force Pararescue Medical Director, drew upon experiences from Iraq and Afghanistan in saving lives in combat.
“Many of the traumatic injuries we see in war, like blast injuries or gunshot wounds, are those you would find at a mass casualty incident,” said Dr. Rush. “The goal for police officers, like soldiers, is to treat those wounds, stop the bleeding as quickly as possible, make sure breathing is clear, and safely transport the victim to the next level of care.”
Dr. Rush emphasized swift and effective interventions for police officers to use at a scene to control bleeding using combat gauze and tourniquets. Using these techniques before victims can be treated by professional emergency personnel can mean the difference between life and death. Dr. Rush recommended all law enforcement personnel carry these tools and include them in their individual first aid kits. “Most lives in combat are lost before people get to the hospital because of bleeding – so it’s critical to have these tools and practice the skills,” he said.
Dr. Rush noted that in the 2011 Tucson, AZ, mass shooting that left six people dead and injured 13 others – including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords – police officers on the scene were equipped with first aid kits modeled after those used by the military, and credited with saving four lives using these techniques. After last year’s Boston Marathon bombing, police departments across the country have made such training a top priority for their officers.
A major part of the program involved Dr. Rush teaching police officers working in teams performing various hands-on lifesaving techniques, including care under fire, bleeding control with a tourniquet, direct pressure and combat gauze; airway and chest injury management; and casualty movement.
Frank DeMasi and John Marrinan, police officers of the Floral Park Police Department and partners for 30 years both agreed the program was very helpful and reinforced their skills.
“I learned about the newer RAT tourniquet and it’s simpler to use and smaller to keep in a pocket,” said Officer Marrinan, who is a member of Floral Park’s Emergency Response Team along with his partner. “I plan on taking back this information and practicing the skills, which can also be useful in individual incidents as well,” Officer DeMasi added.