Murrieta police and firefighters recently trained for a new approach to a potential mass casualty operation where rescuers worked to stop a rampaging gunman while trying to save as many lives as possible.
"It's really good that we're practicing together," said Murrieta Fire Department Capt. Matt Corelli before the event. "We want to make sure we're all on the same page in this type of scenario."
According to Corelli, the departments have completely redesigned the old "norm" when it came to approaching a potential mass assault situation in town. Rather than waiting for the coast to be clear, firefighters want to get into the devastated area as soon as possible— even if that means a gunman may still be on the loose.
“Typically what’s happened in the past, is we never enter an area where an active shooter is until it’s been cleared," Corelli told Patch. “But we can’t sit back and wait; people are bleeding, they have traumatic injuries and they can’t survive if they bleed out while we’re waiting for law enforcement."
"So we changed our philosophy," he continued. "A better option is to go in there with a security component... to provide us with protection from the assailant… being more of an immediate response."
Corelli said that about a year ago, the Murrieta agencies began reexamining the way they would approach the situation if something like the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. happened here. Twenty children and six adults were killed in that massacre.
“These [mass causality tragedies] are happening more and more since 2000," he said, referencing other incidents like the Colorado movie shooting and Columbine High School. "This appears to be more the mode of operation or the typical response for someone who has a vendetta... or some kind of grip— this seems to be the mechanism in which they release terror."
Corelli said the agencies analyzed some of the emergency response tactics used in previous tragedies around the country to help build the Murrieta plain.
"You look at some of these post incident analysis of all these events, and you see that response by the local agencies, both law an fire, has rooms for improvement in the after action report," he said.
The "Active Shooter" simulation was held Wednesday and Friday afternoons, behind Murrieta fire department headquarters at 41825 Juniper St. According to Corelli, Murrieta police and fire are the first in the county to make such training happen.
According to the captain, one of the leading objectives was to iron out potential problems in how the two agencies communicate and approach an act of mass violence.
"Firefighters and police officers speak a different language. So that communication link is a big-time, important element of this," he said. "We already have a good working relationship. But we need to make some adjustments so there aren't any issues in the future."
Corelli said all firefighting personnel went through the training, with the help and cover of police.
"The officers will be going in to neutralize the shooter with AR-15 rifles. The firefighters will be equipped with ballistic protection, and we will go in and systematically triage and sort patients according to their injuries," Corelli said of the process.
Corelli said the agencies want to continue doing these live drills on a semiannual basis going forward.
About two dozen public safety personnel were involved in the two-hour exercises.
—City News Service contributed to this report.