The Journal of Emergency Medical Services published an article in May 2014 about a new concept termed the “Rescue Task Force.” The Rescue Task Force is essentially a trained team that is equipped to enter an active shooter situation once the police have apprehended the suspect. This is what police refer to as a “warm zone”, an area where no active shooter is present but one that has not been cleared of potential “sleeper shooters” or possible IED’s left behind. Patients in an active shooter scenario now can be danger of bleeding out, as protocols may dictate that Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and paramedics cannot enter a scene until police officially clear it. The Rescue Task Force is a revolutionary idea in the management of these delicate situations. But there is also a lot of concern in the public safety community regarding how the management of this event may risk the lives of emergency medical technicians, paramedics and firefighters. The New York Post recently published an article explaining some of the concerns for first responders. The article detailed how some New York City firefighters felt the Rescue Task Force concept is incredibly dangerous. According to the article, some feel those in the management of these scenarios would not be putting first responders in harm’s way. Of course, with change there will always be individuals that are concerned about the changes in how scenarios are handled. But when it comes to the Rescue Task Force, there are certainly myriad concerns both for the survival of shooting victims and for the safety of first responders. Numerous scholars have noted that active shooters have changed tactics drastically in the last few years. Thus, how scenarios like this are handled need to adapt, too. It could be the one thing that saves a lot of lives that would have been lost in previous active shooter scenarios. The concept, however, is a delicate issue – so delicate that it is something that has been largely researched and scrutinized by municipalities looking to implement it.
Multiple law enforcement agencies, for example, have worked to iron out how the Rescue Task Force would specifically work. It has changed how active shooter scenarios would be handled in the future. But, there will be components to the idea that need further development, especially as active shooter scenarios continue to evolve. Ultimately, the Rescue Task Force is an important concept for emergency managers, law enforcement and emergency medical services (EMS) agencies to contemplate. The idea could save lives, but it needs to be carefully integrated into the emergency management plans of the municipality to make sure that it works well for the department.