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Did bureaucratic delay inside Orlando Fire fail victims of Pulse nightclub shooting?

Could 16 people have been saved with policy & gear that allowed a faster FD response?

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The investigative news site ProPublica and public radio station WMFE report for years prior to the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Orlando Fire Department was unable to implement an active shooter policy and supply its firefighters and paramedics with ballistic vests. The reporting says this delayed help to those wounded, a claim Orlando’s leaders continue to dispute. Forty-nine people died and 53 were injured in the attack. A study earlier this year by the journal Prehospital Emergency Care indicates as many as 16 people could have been saved if they had received basic EMS care within 10 minutes and been transported to a trauma center within an hour.

In two articles, Probublica and WMFE document the bureaucratic obstacles that left responding firefighters unequipped and without a clear policy to rapidly get to and treat the wounded. “How the Orlando Fire Department’s Active Shooter Policy Fell Through the Cracks” by WMFE’s Abe Aboraya shows Orlando Fire Department first addressed active shooter training in 2005 in joint drills with the police department. In 2013 an effort was begun by an assistant chief to have firefighters and paramedics properly trained and equipped to rapidly assist police. The timeline shows that did not occur before the 2016 Pulse tragedy. Read the timeline here.

In “Orlando Paramedics Didn’t Go In to Save Victims of the Pulse Shooting. Here’s Why.” Aboraya interviews key players and further explains the failures to have the proper equipment, training and a clear policy. Orlando’s mayor, fire chief and police chief dispute these findings. They believe the inside of the nightclub was a hot zone and that there was no way of knowing there was only one shooter. Fire Chief Roderick Williams maintains, “We’re not prepared to go in hot-zone extraction. That’s just not what we do as a fire department. It was active fire, active shooting.”

Others disagree with the chief’s assessment. Here’s an excerpt, but I encourage you to read the entire article:

“We need to get these people out,” a command officer said over the police radio.

“We gotta get ‘em out,” another officer responded. “We got him [the shooter] contained in the bathroom. We have several long guns on the bathroom right now.”

A few minutes later, the Orlando Police Department’s dispatch log shows the police formally requested the Fire Department to come into the club. “We’re pulling victims out the front. Have FD come up and help us out with that,” one officer said.

The Orlando Fire Department had been working on a plan for just such a situation for three years. Like many fire departments at the time, Orlando had long relied on a traditional protocol for mass shootings, in which paramedics stayed at a distance until an all-clear was given. The department had tasked Anibal Saez Jr., an assistant chief, with developing a new approach being adopted across the country: Specialized teams of medics, guarded by police officers and wearing specially designed bulletproof vests, would pull out victims before a shooter is caught or killed.

Read entire article

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