What it’s like on the medical side of a mass casualty call

When EMS gets the call to respond to a major incident like the shooting outside Dior over the weekend, they need to act swiftly.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 7:37 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - When EMS gets the call to respond to a major incident like the shooting outside Dior over the weekend, they need to act swiftly. Once on the scene, they use what’s called the triage system.

They’ll figure out what resources they need, how many ambulances they’re gonna need, and they’re going to notify the hospitals and let them know we have a mass casualty incident so that they can also prepare,” said Brad Harris with Baton Rouge EMS.

EMS will also use what’s called the Louisiana Emergency Response Network, otherwise known as the LERN system.

“So, if we call and we say we have x number of patients with these types of injuries, they will dictate okay you need to go to this hospital because they have the correct resources for that patient,” Harris added.

Special tags are also used to mark victims and show where on the priority list they fall. As the only hospital in the region with a level-one trauma center, victims in critical condition from something like a gunshot wound would likely end up at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. That’s where I met Dr. Benjamin Martínez, one of the surgeon’s in the trauma center.

“Basically, we have 24-hour in-house coverage with trauma surgeons available and ready to respond immediately to nay trauma that comes through the door. We get a call from the paramedics and they kind of let us know what’s going on, what kind of injuries they have, the status of the patient, basically how they’re doing with their vital signs and what their injuries are. And they’ll also give us a number of patients in the field and then that kind of lets us know if we need to start being ready to being ready to mobilize some more of our other trauma surgeons,” said Dr. Martinez.

Dr. Martinez has been doing the job for almost 6 years and says when it comes to gun violence, he’s seen more than usual.

“So, we break it down to penetrating blunt trauma. Blunt, obviously being things like car wrecks for the most part, and penetrating things like stabbings and gunshot wounds. There’s definitely been an increase in penetrating trauma within the local community recently,” Dr. Martinez explained.

We’re told no matter how long you’ve been doing the job, medical professionals still need to shake off some nerves when patients come through. And it’s for that reason the systems they rely on to stay focused are critically important.

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