COLORADO SPRINGS — “This was one of those calls.”
The call Lieutenant Brian Ebmeyer refers to is the dispatch saying “A Code 4 active shooter…at Club Q.”
Ebmeyer and Lieutenant Jeremiah Heddings were the two Colorado Springs Fire Department, Medical Lieutenants on duty the night of the Club Q mass shooting.
“The weight of it was pretty immediate, like oh, this is going to be big,” said Heddings.
They said the initial dispatch was for 12 people shot.
“My thought was no matter how many ambulances we have, we should probably get some more,” said Heddings.
Ebmeyer said, “Information--we use it, but we don't bank on it.”
A call for ambulance support went to nearby agencies outside of Colorado Springs.
Shared relationships paid off because the number of victims was higher than first reported.
Emergency medical responders had to make gut-wrenching decisions different from a scene with one or two patients.
“Because there were upwards of 20 to 25 patients with severe gunshot wounds, but survivable, we had to bypass the obviously deceased patients and focus on the ones that could survive it is it's a tough situation,” said Heddings.
Training and teamwork for both fire and police were immediately tested.
“There were tourniquets and bandages applied by the police department that absolutely saved lives,” said Heddings.
An incident of this magnitude also tested training and protocols.
The response went well.
An unprecedented situation also reveals things that can be improved.
Emergency responders on the scene later learned that staff at the multiple hospitals preparing for patients needed more information on how many victims, the extent of injuries, and which hospitals should prepare for their arrival.
Technology provided a solution with barcoded wristbands that can now go on patients as an information and tracking system.
“The hospitals can see in real-time, as we scan our patients, and we start treating, they can see how many patients that are in this in this incident,” said Heddings.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, a CSFD mental health peer support program also proved beneficial.
It was started years ago in the fire department.
“Become the eyes and ears and watching out for each of us noticing subtle changes where something might be going on with one of our people,” said Ebmeyer, “This incident was a time that came into play and was very beneficial.”
The fire fighters bring up the topic of mental health support so others outside the department will think about it after a tragedy like Club Q
“That is going to have an immediate impact on you, regardless of who you are,” said Ebmeyer, “Your emotions don't hit you until after the scene has wound down and you realize what you've just been a part of.”
They also point out it can trigger thoughts and emotions of people witnessing this event away from the scene.
“It's okay to talk about it. It's okay to be affected by what we do and see. And, it's healthier than bottling it up and not dealing with it,” said Heddings.
A year later there’s an ongoing analysis of what went right, lessons learned, and the efforts of good people who went toward danger to offer help at Club Q.
Heddings said, “All of our firefighters did an excellent job and none of their roles were easy that night.”
Lives were lost on the tragic night of the Club Q shooting.
Because of first responders, there were also lives saved.
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