The police officer was waiting for the EMS crew when they exited the ambulance.
“We have an active shooter at the middle
school with multiple patients,” he said, holding
an AR- 15 replica training rifle. “The immedi-
ate area has been cleared but is not secured.”
“Copy that,” said Brian Carr, a captain with
Jackson Hole Fire/EMS (JHFEMS), before
turning to his partner who was already to don-
ning his tactical gear. “Let’s go!”
As Captain Carr and his partner, paramedic
Chris Stiehl, followed the officer through the
front doors, another officer joined their team.
Carr felt his stress level rise, but continued to lead the rescue task force (RTF) team
they’d just created. Although he knew in his
mind that this was a training scenario, there
was just something about hearing the words
“active shooter” and “school” that hit him in
the gut and made his pulse race.
The lobby of the school was eerily empty
and quiet. A grey haze hung in the air with the
smell of training ammunition smoke.
As one officer led the crew through the
school, snaking around corners and moving
swiftly through open areas like SEAL Team
6, the second officer covered their tail.
They could hear rounds popping off in the
next building over and police officers shouting
commands. Captain Carr and Paramedic
Stiehl found their first patient, a middle-aged
man, lying in a long hallway lined with class-
rooms. He had a gunshot wound moulaged
to his chest and was struggling to breathe.
“Let’s get him out of this hallway in case
the shooter returns,” Carr said quickly.
With the police officers standing guard,
Captain Carr and Paramedic Stiehl dragged
the patient into a classroom a few steps away
and immediately began administering care.
Stiehl placed an occlusive seal over the
patient’s open chest wound; Captain Carr
noticed the telltale signs of a tension pneumothorax and simulated a needle decompression on the left side of the patient’s chest.
Stiehl quickly unrolled a black tarp to transport the patient.
Seconds later, the crew was dragging the
patient to the casualty collection point (CCP)
outside the school, and dropping him off to
other EMS providers arriving on scene.
Carr and Stiehl followed the police officers
back into the school where they found a second patient, shot in the arm, with an uncontrolled arterial bleed. The team quickly applied
a tourniquet, carried her to the CCP and then
hurried back in to find the next patient.
On and on the training scenario went,
until Brian Coe, battalion chief of training at
JHFEMS, announced over the radio that the
simulation was over.
Moments later, everyone met in the parking lot to debrief. Captain Carr and Paramedic Stiehl emerged from the school, looking
exhausted and wet with sweat.
It was late December, the school kids were
out on holiday break and, as Chief Coe spoke,
his breath billowed in the air.
“Great job, everyone,” he began, addressing the different RTF teams from A, B, and
C shift. “I know no one wants to think about
situations like this ever happening. But if it
does … we’ll be prepared.”
Until 2014, Jackson, Wyoming, a small town
with 10,000 year-round residents bordering
Grand Teton National Park, had no tactical
EMS (TEMS) program. But as active shooter
incidents continued to occur in places like
Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech and Sandy
Hook, it became clear that mass violence could
happen regardless of population size, community structure or geographic area. After all, an
older generation of Wyoming residents knew
this all too well.
On Friday, May 16, 1986, David Young—a
former town marshal—and his wife took
136 children and 18 adults hostage at the
Patients are assessed and treated following an explosion at Cokeville Elementary School on May 16, 1986, after a heavily armed couple identified as David and
Doris Young set off a gasoline bomb inside the southwestern Wyoming school injuring more than 65 people. AP Photos/Rick Egan