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‘We want to be ready if something like that does happen in this community’

Firefighters train for active-shooter situations

In response to the increased number of shootings around the country, firefighters cross-train with police to help prepare them for active shooter situations.
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In response to the increased number of shootings around the country, firefighters cross-train with police to help prepare them for active shooter situations.

A dozen firefighters from Bellingham Fire completed active shooter paramedic training on Wednesday at the closed PeaceHealth South Campus on East Chestnut Street.

The training started about two years ago in response to the increased number of shootings around the country, according to Scott Ryckman, Bellingham Fire division chief for emergency medical services.

“(The goal is) to be able to respond to those incidents in a timely manner and be able to get in and create a difference in the outcome of the patients,” Ryckman told The Bellingham Herald in an interview on Monday.

In the past, firefighters were not allowed to enter potentially dangerous areas. After trainings like this one, however, firefighters can enter a building accompanied by law enforcement, allowing the firefighters to provide medical care to patients faster than they could in the past.

“Responding to one of these events is very different for firefighters,” Ryckman said. “So we’ve got to get our folks used to that type of situation, and used to working with law enforcement.”

On Wednesday, three Bellingham Police officers flanked teams of four to six firefighters as they moved through the building’s empty first floor treating simulated victims and tagging them based on their injury status.

The training was made to be as realistic as possible with 19 people acting as victims, fake blood and wounds, and blank rounds to simulate gunfire. It took place inside the building while dispatchers and commanders issued instructions over the radio.

Ryckman said it’s sad but necessary that firefighters are having to adapt to these sorts of situations. “We want to be ready if something like that does happen in this community,” Ryckman said.

Lacey Young is a visual journalist who interned at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, NASA’S Goddard Space Flight Center and Minnesota Public Radio. She’s a University of Montana graduate and life-long Washingtonian.

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