Regional emergency plan is in place but forever changing

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) January 21, 1985--a charter flight carrying passengers from a Super Bowl trip crashed just off U.S. 395 in what was then a vacant lot.

Police officers and first responders at the scene of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Photo Date: 10/2/17

Of the 71 people on board, three would show signs of life, but in the end, only one passenger would survive.

Then-EMT Brian Taylor says first responders all knew what to do. They just didn't know how to work together. That’s when a regional plan was suggested and implemented.

“Our plan is a regional plan; it involves EMS, the fire department, law enforcement, area hospitals, public health-- that we all come together as a community in a crisis. We address the issue,” says Brain Taylor, REMSA Emergency Manager.

Through drills and exercises, the plan has been modified--especially when another mass casualty occurs.

In 1997 a new kind of emergency responder was added to the mix. Called Tactical Emergency Medical Services, these paramedics enter with SWAT or other specialized unit during an active shooter or other type of situation.

“We locate victims. We triage them, making determinations on severity, how critical they are, whether to move them to an area that is safe,” says Todd Kerfoot, REMSA Tactical Medical Services Manager.

Kerfoot says he trains about 120 times a year with law enforcement; so do the 7 others on his team. That's because tactics and best practices are constantly improving.

September 16, 2011, 11 people died and 69 were injured when a plane crashed at the Reno Air Races. Emergency responders were nationally recognized for transporting 54 patients in 62 minutes.

Local hospitals have their own plan on how to accommodate these waves of injured patients coming in at one time as well. That plan can be expanded or contracted, depending upon the incident.

Right now the emergency plan shows 200 patients total could be seen in that first wave community-wide. But each hospital knows how it will be able to treat more victims should the need arise.

Taylor says the regional emergency plan is a living, breathing document. It is constantly changing. For instance, after the Reno Air Race disaster, despite that impressive transport time, flaws in the system were recognized. 19 alterations were made.

While the altered plan has been used during drills, it has yet to be put to the test during a real emergency.