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How emergency medical services prepare for mass casualty incidents

First responders are on standby 24 hours a day to respond to any medical emergency.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — When mass shootings or casualty incidents happen, how prepared are paramedics and emergency medical technicians?

"We have to be prepared for when our systems are overwhelmed," said Ken Kelley with the Arkansas Ambulance Association.

While mass shootings in the Natural State aren't common, emergency medical services like Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services spend hours every year training.

"Preparation for MCI or mass casualty incidents begin when one starts out in EMT school," said Chris Marshall, the operations director for MEMS.

He said their annual training involves staging drills from active aggressor situations like shootings to plane crashes— something he was personally involved in back in 1999.

Marshall used that training to save lives when 11 people were killed and 110 were hurt when a plane overran the runway when landing in Little Rock and crashed.

"I was in a supervisory role that night. Really, the first thing is to find out is how many people were on the aircraft," Marshall said.

The Arkansas Ambulance Association said all of their first responders do a full-scale mock drill every year.

"A functional exercise might be just the process of going through and tagging the victims," said Kelley.

The second part of preparedness, Kelley adds, is quickly treating people who are hurt.

This includes evaluating patients and treating them as fast as they can.

"Specific tasks and roles are assigned. One person is assigned to the triage officer, another person may be assigned as a transportation," Kelley said.

He also said every ambulance unit he has carries extra bandaging supplies and tourniquets, a device used to stop the flow of blood.

Marshall adds that these constant trainings are the only way to make sure everyone is prepared.

"It's just second nature, we just go into a mode of treating and taking care of the injured," Marshall said.

Both say a couple of ways you can help in a medical emergency is by taking CPR and stop the bleed courses because seconds matter.

The Arkansas Ambulance Association also told us paramedic students did a ride-along with medics.

Their goal is to begin training early so students are able to respond at a moment's notice.

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