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June 15, 2016

Orlando shooting is latest teaching event for emergency responders

When an alert of the Orlando shootings flashed across my phone, I noted the news, shook my head and moved on with my work.

I had been busy preparing for and coordinating our local EMS education symposium. In the middle of preparing rosters, meeting speakers and prepping the conference area news of the incident unfolded.

A day later the symposium was in full swing. The buzz from attendees was good — great content, excellent discussions and informal reunions between friends and colleagues.

But during lunch, an attendee approached me and made an interesting observation. "Why is it that no one is talking about the Orlando shootings?"

In the middle of my busy day, the question made me pause. Why indeed?

I do think that we have come to accept that mass shootings are part of the fabric of today’s society, not just in our country, but in countries around the world. It’s tragic that it’s becoming second nature to expect such violence and loss of life in our communities.

It’s shameful. And it’s a fact.

The message to EMS providers and other public safety personnel is not lost. In the 15 years since the Sept. 11 attacks, we have been scrambling to strengthen our response to large-scale violence. Each incident becomes a regrettable teaching event. Each victim becomes a promise to work harder and smarter to reduce the carnage from the next incident.

The Erie County EMS medical director sums up what we all know by now, "The old way that you practiced EMS in the '70s and '80s is not the 2016 version of what it means to be an EMT now."

This isn’t just for response. It is the mindset that we have to adopt in order to be better prepared for violent incidents.

Over the next few weeks, analysis will occur on the public safety response in Orlando. It’s incumbent on both EMS leadership and line staff alike to assess, analyze and respond to the information.

No doubt mistakes were made — they always are. No response is perfect and hindsight is ridiculously 20/20.

It would be a waste to ignore the information of successes, failures and opportunities for improvement and not use it when the next mass shooting happens.

And it will.

About the Author

Art Hsieh, MA, NRP teaches in Northern California at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. An EMS provider since 1982, Art has served as a line medic, supervisor and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook writer, author of "EMT Exam for Dummies," has presented at conferences nationwide and continues to provide direct patient care regularly. Art is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Contact Art at and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.