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‘100%, the training saved lives on Sunday’ | Mass casualty drills prepared Sac Fire & Police Depts.

For five years, Sacramento’s fire and police departments have engaged in annual training drills, preparing them for mass casualty situations - like Sunday's.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento Fire Department leaders say the special hands-on training they do every year prepared them to save lives in Sunday's downtown shooting.

Eric Saylors is Assistant Chief of the Sacramento Fire Department's EMS division. He leads the mass casualty incident trainings for both Sacramento firefighters and police officers – something they've been doing jointly for five years.

"This is one of those things that we have to practice...in an artificial environment over and over again, so that we make sure we're effective at our objectives,” Saylors said.

He led one of those trainings on Thursday morning. With 36 sessions like this happening in 2022, he said the goal is to train as many of Sacramento's firefighters and police officers as possible each year.

"We base all of our drills on real-life events,” Saylors said. “Our first drill, we mimicked out the Charlottesville (Virginia) event, which was a vehicle into a crowd. And then we started looking at the Boston (Marathon) bombing…and then the Pulse nightclub (shooting in Orlando)."

2022’s training is based on a school shooting. It’s entirely staged for teaching purposes at the Clayton B. Wire Elementary School building, a school that has been closed for years.

Sacramento Fire spokesperson Keith Wade said the department notifies neighbors about trainings, which is important because they can sound and even look all too real. The department will be holding these drills at the former elementary school periodically through November.

The intense nature of the drills act as important practice for firefighters and police officers, and its something that played out in Sunday morning’s deadly shooting. 

“100%, the training saved lives on Sunday,” Saylors said. “They did exactly what we trained them to do. They engaged very quickly. They were on scene in two minutes, they engaged within the first five minutes and they started transporting victims very quickly."

If what happened on Sunday had happened five years ago, before the Sacramento City Fire Department started conducting these Intentional Mass Casualty Incident (ICMI) trainings for firefighters and police officers, “we would not have been as fast or as aggressive for getting the patients,” Saylors said, “and the seven people that they did transport would not have survived if the time was delayed at all."

The training goes hand-in-hand with the national Stop the Bleed campaign, which aims to train people how to stop bleeding in a severely injured person.

"We know that most of our victims will bleed out in the first few minutes, so we need to get there quick, stop the bleeding and get them to surgery," Saylors said.

He added that Sunday's incident is still too fresh to be bringing lessons learned into Thursday's training, but the department is in the process of looking at what worked and how they can improve their response.

Next year’s training will likely be modeled off of Sunday’s downtown shooting, spokesperson Keith Wade said, and could involve blocking off a city street.


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