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Tucson's emergency crews better prepare for mass casualty incidents

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Tucson's emergency crews better prepare for mass casualty incidents

By Valerie Cavazos. CREATED Sep 25, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) --  Emergency crews around the country and in our region are making changes to better prepare for these worst case scenarios.

In a mass casualty incident  the actions taken by the emergency crews in the first five minutes could mean the difference between life and death.

 The moment emergency crews step into a traumatic scene -- they are often sifting through frantic -- and injured people. Their immediate job is to triage -- to sort. The crews first determine the severity of injuries. They label victims, by color, so ambulance crews would know whom to tend to first.

Green = Minor/Walking wounded
Yellow = Delayed/Serious Non-Life Threatening
Red = Immediate/Life Threatening Injury
Black = Morgue/Pulseless Non-Breathing
Pink = Contaminated

Crews have relied solely on paper tags to sort and indentify victims, but ran into problems. "These tags fall off, they're hard to keep on. It takes longer to fill the stuff out," said Battalion Fire Chief Jonathon McMahan of Rural/Metro Fire Department. McMahan is in charge of the MMRS (Metropolitan Medical Response System) Team.
 
In dire situations -- there is no time to write labels. Dying victims need to be moved to hospitals.

Capt. Garrett Roberts said, "If it's stormy -- if it's evening whatever it may be we need to have better visualization. In the past these tags were not effective to visualize people down the road."

So colored ribbons now replace tags -- initially. "So now they're bright. We can keep the people moving," said Roberts.

And the ribbons are later swapped with tags. It's a new method they hope to never have to use. "But failing to plan is planning to fail," said McMahan. And that comes at a high price.

440 emergency service workers are being trained to use -- not only these new tools -- but a large amount of emergency equipment strategically placed throughout the region.

McMahan says the new tools have been purchased with federal grant funds.