RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As the nation mourns the deaths of children teachers, friends and grandparents all killed in mass shootings over the past couple of weeks, doctors continue to care for the injured. In mass shooting situations, planning can save lives and we wanted to know how our local hospitals and EMS crews prepare for the worst-case scenario.

From EMS crews to trauma surgeons, hospitals and first responders across the Triangle have plans in place in case of a mass shooting.

“I think it’s a matter of preparation, simulation, drilling and having the community be prepared,” said Dr. Abhi Mehrotra, Vice-Chair in the Department of Emergency Medicine at UNC Hospital.

In December, UNC held a drill to prepare health care workers for a shooter inside a hospital. Health care systems also train to treat large numbers of patients injured in shootings or other incidents.

In that case, Chief Medical Officer at Duke University Hospital, Dr. Lisa Pickett, said, “We need to have ready surgeons, intensive care units, operating rooms and teams of people.”

Duke Hospital put part of its mass casualty plan into practice in 2019.

“We did activate part of this plan even with the explosions several years ago in Durham, where we had a number of folks who had been injured, not by gun blasts but by blasts from a gas leak, so we learned from that,” Pickett explained.

The Triangle has multiple hospitals that can work together in the event of an incident with numerous victims.

“The trauma centers coordinate and say, ‘Ok, we’ve got this many numbers of casualties who are coming. Let’s see who’s got capacity; what kind of capacity you have,’ and it’s very much a collaboration,” Mehrotra noted.

A bag that Wake County EMS crews would use in the event of an active shooter (Wake County EMS photo)

Health systems also work with first responders.

“We have medical directors who work with EMS teams to assess what’s the equipment they’re carrying,” said Mehrotra.

EMS crews may be the first to provide medical care to victims. According to Wake County EMS Chief of Community Outreach, Brian Brooks, in an active shooter scenario, EMS crews would join law enforcement to form rescue task forces.

EMS crews would enter a building escorted by officers and carrying specialized bags of supplies to control bleeding and provide immediate life-saving care, so victims can get to the hospital.

Durham County EMS also has specialized equipment and training to respond to multiple victims of violence.

A statement from Chief Paramedic Mark Lockhart reads, in part:

“The Office of Emergency Services EMS Division trains our practitioners on response to acts of violence and complex coordinated attacks beginning in our training academy and through continuing education. Our units are equipped with supplies and equipment to respond to acts of violence and mass casualty incidents and our practitioners have experience dealing with a wide variety of traumatic injuries.”