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Taylorsville Journal

Salt Lake Community College conducting active shooter emergency response drills on multiple campuses

Dec 03, 2018 03:22PM ● By Carl Fauver

Emergency response exercises, on Salt Lake Community College campuses, are scheduled to continue into next year. (Lisa Schwartz/Salt Lake Community College)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

As armed gunmen continue to wreak havoc on college campuses nationwide, the schools and police and fire emergency responders are working to beef up their training in an effort to save as many lives as possible.

At Salt Lake Community College’s primary Redwood Road campus in Taylorsville (4600 South), the school’s Emergency Manager Lisa Schwartz and her team are coordinating a series of training exercises at several SLCC campuses throughout the valley.

It’s the type of work Schwartz has been doing since 2005, when she first volunteered — and was later hired — as the Emergency Response Coordinator for Taylorsville City.

“I used to have a cubicle across from the mayor’s office at (Taylorsville) city hall,” Schwartz said. “As SLCC’s emergency manager now, I am doing my part to improve emergency response training because I am a mother with a daughter in high school and two college students. I also serve SLCC students, and with that comes my commitment to do all I can to provide them the same effort I would for my own children.”

To that end, last spring the school hosted an active shooter emergency response training drill at their Taylorsville campus. More recently, a second drill was staged at SLCC’s Miller Campus (9750 South 300 West) this fall.

SLCC Public Relations Director Joy Tlou says the primary purpose of the training is to introduce the newest emergency response technique to area police, fire and EMT responders, called “Rescue Task Force,” or RTF.

“In past mass shooting events, police have gone in first and emergency medical responders have not entered a scene until the shooter was neutralized,” Tlou explained. “Sadly, in those few minutes, many victims have bled to death when faster response would have probably saved their lives. RTF is a technique designed to get medical care to shooting victims in one part of a building, even while the shooter is still active in another area.”

Tlou said a Rescue Task Force typically consists of three or four law enforcement officers, accompanied by about that many medical professionals. The technique requires law enforcement to secure part of a “hot” shooting zone, so EMTs can get aid to victims more quickly. 

“This is something completely new for fire and EMT responders,” Schwartz added. “They are not used to wearing bullet-proof vests and entering hot areas. In RTF response techniques, police go in first, secure the area enough so that it can be classified as ‘warm’ rather than ‘hot,’ and then emergency medical personnel follow behind them.”

Schwartz said the medical personnel are not training to extract shooting victims at that point. Instead, they are deployed to apply tourniquets, press bandages and something called “chest seals.”

Chest seals are typically made of heavy plastic, designed to seal the open chest wounds caused by a gunshot. Medical professionals say the seals stop air from being sucked into the chest cavity, which can often cause a lung collapse.

Following these first two active shooter training exercises in Taylorsville and Sandy, a third will be staged next February at the SLCC South City Campus, with more likely to follow. Salt Lake Community College operates a total of 11 campuses throughout the Salt Lake Valley.

Sgt. Nicholas Street, a Utah Highway Patrol public information officer, said his agency is glad to see Salt Lake Community College spearhead this effort to improve emergency response techniques.

“SLCC has really put a good foot forward,” Street said. “We are all pleased to be working together to help keep students safe. When initial response teams can get into active shooter areas more quickly, more lives can be saved. SLCC is setting a trend that I hope colleges and universities throughout the state will follow. This is critical training.”

Even higher up the UHP chain of command — in fact, up at the top link of that chain — new Utah Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson agrees.

“Completely on their own, Salt Lake Community College has recognized an issue and devised a solution to the need for better active shooter emergency response training,” Anderson said. “I could not praise (SLCC administrators) more for addressing this problem. For them to step up and do this is phenomenal.” 

School officials say each training session costs about $1,500 to operate, primarily to feed participants. Police and fire trainees earn their normal departmental pay during the trainings.

“After each training we have what are called ‘hot wash’ meetings,” Tlou said. “Essentially, these are debriefing sessions where all of the training participants can discuss what went right and what areas could be improved. The work is all intended to help save students’ lives.” 

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