Dr. Campbell: How healthcare centers respond to mass shootings

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Forty-nine people were killed and 53 were injured in act of terrorism in Orlando, Florida Sunday morning. The ability of healthcare workers and hospitals to respond in a coordinated way likely led to many other lives being saved.

With the proliferation of mass shootings in the US in the last decade, most hospital systems have put in place emergency/disaster plans for preparing their emergency rooms and trauma centers for the sudden influx of patients caused by mass shooting events.  In addition, hospitals are also training personnel and healthcare staff how to respond to emergencies within the hospital itself, such as an active shooter or terror attack.

RELATED: Full Orlando Terror Attack coverage

In an emergency, hospitals and hospital personnel must be able to quickly mobilize and triage very sick patients in a short period of time. In a trauma or mass shooting event, time is of the essence.

Many hospitals have an “all hands on deck” policy for these situations where all available surgeons and/or nurses are called into the hospital and are ready to treat patients within minutes of a disaster notification. This requires precise communication and a well-coordinated command center within the hospital. When patients begin to arrive, a system of triage identifies the sickest and most critical patients for the expedited treatment. All patients are assessed for stability—the ABCDEs of trauma—Airway, Breathing and Circulation (or Bleeding) as well as Disability and Exposure. This assessment is quite effective in saving lives.

EMS plays a critical role in emergency and disaster response. EMS professionals are able to help coordinate care and quickly identify the most critically wounded patients and facilitate their transport to the closest healthcare center. In addition, many EMS personnel are able to provide on-site care for those who are less critically wounded until they can be seen in a hospital or other triage facility.

Most hospitals have an alert system that notifies all essential personnel such as surgeons and/or staff to be on site quickly. Once on site, there are protocols for evaluating the injured and delivering coordinated care quickly.

The most important thing we can do during an emergency situation is to make sure that the most critical patients get to the operating room first for potentially life-saving treatments.

To prepare for the worst, hospitals and staff routinely conduct emergency response drills in order to be ready to deal with the worst disasters. Doctors, nurses and techs are all trained to respond to mass casualties in a way that protects patients and staff as well as allows for prompt treatment of critically ill patients.

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter. If there’s a topic you’d like to see Dr. Campbell cover, let us know by sending an email to newstips@wncn.com.

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