Gainesville Fire Rescue and the Gainesville Police Department have joined forces to become better prepared for instances involving an active shooter.
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Gainesville firefighters and law enforcement trained on what should be done if faced with such a situation at the Gainesville Fire Rescue Training Bureau on Northeast 14th Street.
“We have established a rescue task force with the fire department, where we would actually go out with the police officers to the affected areas to help remove the (victims of the shooter),” said Michael Cowart, operations chief of GFR.
The training is meant to make responses the most efficient and help the affected people, according to Cowart.
The standard is for law enforcement to enter the area first to address the current threats, and after those threats have been alleviated, fire rescue steps in. However, in the case of an active shooter, there can be up to 30 or 40 injured victims, so for firefighters, waiting for police officers to clear the area could take hours.
“Our officers are trained at minimal first aid,” Gainesville police Lt. Dan Stout said. “We are going to try to render aid if we can. Our biggest goal is to stop the violence. As we work with (firefighters), our goal is to be able to speed up the time that we can get true levels of EMS care into these hot areas.”
Gainesville firefighters are required to be certified paramedics or emergency medical technicians, while police officers can administer only basic first aide.
With the joint response, firefighters can enter and begin treating victims almost immediately, so the task force is meant to train firefighters to be escorted by police into the area.
“We have adapted a program where the police officers who are originally going in can carry medical equipment so that they can provide first aide to people affected more quickly,” Cowart said.
Active-shooter instances are usually over within about 10 or 15 minutes. For those who encounter one inside a business or school, Gainesville Fire Rescue recommends to run, hide or fight.
First, if people have the option to run away, they should, Cowart said. If they’re unable to, hiding in a quiet location is the next best option, followed finally by fighting.
An active-shooter situation is not necessarily a mass shooting, according to the FBI, which describes such an event as “a situation in which a shooting is in progress and an aspect of the crime may affect the protocols used in responding to and reacting at the scene of the incident.”
“Obviously, there are some higher profile cases,” Cowart said, “but there is stuff that happens on a regular basis. So trying to be prepared for certain situations like this is key.”