Pasadena Police Train for Mass Casualty Incident with Innovative Tactical Medical Response

Published : Friday, November 9, 2018 | 6:39 AM

Officer Luis Cervantes (in black shirt shown teaching in both images), who serves as both a SWAT officer with the Pasadena Police Department and a paramedic with the Sierra Madre Fire Department, was instrumental in helping develop the innovative tactical medical training program. Left image courtesy Pasadena Police Dept.

About 90 Pasadena police officers are taking part in training this week to learn how to save as many lives as possible using innovative medical training in the event of an active shooter or other mass casualty incident, authorities said.

The program focuses on teaching police officers, who are often the first to arrive on the scene of a tragedy, tactical medical skills to help them render life-saving aid to injured victims before other first-responders, such as paramedics, are able to access the scene.

Officer Luis Cervantes, who serves as both a SWAT officer with the Pasadena Police Department and a paramedic with the Sierra Madre Fire Department, was instrumental in helping develop the program, officials said.

Pasadena Police Officer Luis Cervantes (left) with Huntington Hospital emergency physician and Pasadena Fire Department Medical Director Dr. Roger Yang

“I created a mission and a vision for this program,” Cervantes said. “My mission, first of all, is to make sure that every Pasadena police officer is properly trained and equipped with the medical equipment necessary to kind of mitigate situations in hot zone environments.”

“Hot zones” are crime scenes considered too dangerous for paramedics to enter, such as active shooter scenes.

The training allows police officers to transition from stopping the threat to treating the wounded without wasting precious minutes, or even seconds.

“It may take minutes, it may take a little longer for that scene to be completely safe, and while that happens, there may potentially be victims that are bleeding out to death. We can have an impact on them directly,” Cervantes said.

But he added that his plan doesn’t end at Pasadena’s border.

“My vision for the future is that the Pasadena Police Department becomes innovators in the field of tactical medicine and that we also take proactive steps towards teaching other police departments, other police agencies, to kind of take that training to their own officers,” Cervantes said.

A somber reminder of the need for such skills took place in Thousand Oaks Wednesday night, where 12 victims, including a sheriff’s deputy, were killed in a mass shooting at the Borderline bar. The shooter killed himself, authorities said.

Dr. Roger Yang, a longtime emergency room physician at Huntington Hospital and the Pasadena Fire Department Medical Director, said he thinks it’s a good idea.

“There’s a lot of data that says that if you can control the extremities, teach civilians how to apply tourniquets, how to use a specialized gauze to stop bleeding, you can save lives,” he said.

“These are our techniques, they’re not super complex, but they can save lives,” Yang said.

Yang said he’d like to see more similar collaboration in the future.

“I think we’re also trying to set up a relationship, since I do all the medical directorship for Pasadena Fire Dept.,” he said. “All of this is a continuum, and it depends on who gets there first.”

The program could make a big difference when officers are out in the field, Pasadena Interim Police Chief John Perez said.

“This is really a game changer for us inside the community and in the police department, for us to be trained this way,” he said.

“At some point, you’ll be able to identify these officers by the vehicles they’re driving with blue bands, with the next level of training they’ll receive from here. But that’s a while away,” the Chief said.

Police personnel seemed to like the idea, as well, he added.

“The officers are very excited to take on more responsibility at times, he said. “And you know, there’s places and organizations that don’t want the extra responsibility. Here, the officers are accepting it. They’re open to it. All of our employees, not just sworn, but our civilian work staff, which is amazing.”

Wednesday night’s tragedy in Thousand Oaks is an example of the unthinkable violence that seems to becoming all too common, Lt. Tracey Ibarra said. And police need to be ready.

“It shouldn’t be happening anywhere. It shouldn’t be happening with the frequency that it does across this nation,” she said. “The Pasadena Police Department had already been looking at this for a while saying we need to figure out what the next evolution of law enforcement’s role is in addition to what we already do.”

The changing nature of public safety threats requires law enforcement to adapt, the lieutenant said.

“Law enforcement’s role, yes, is first is to neutralize the threat, whatever the threat may be,” she said. “We say active shooter, but we recognize today that could be someone who is trying to cause mass casualties with a vehicle or with a knife or some other form of weapons that’s used.”

“Police officers can now become temporary or interim medical care in that transition from dangerous zone, red zone, to a warm zone and getting a paramedic’s care, then to hospitalization.”

The training doesn’t replace traditional medics, Ibarra added. “But as we recognize from Boston and from the Pulse nightclub and from Las Vegas, people were having to self-treat or treating others in order to save lives.”

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