Edwards AFB Fire & Emergency Services and 412th Security Forces Squadron forge Rescue Task Force

  • Published
  • By Daniel Wolf
  • Edwards AFB Fire & Emergency Services

Edwards Air Force Base conducted a successful anti-terrorism base exercise culminating in a simulated active shooter incident at the Desert High School, August 12 and 13. Edwards Air Force Base, in line with Air Force and Department of Defense guidance has a semi-annual requirement to accomplish active shooter incident exercises.

This requirement is driven by the need to ensure that installation personnel are prepared in case of an active shooter incident as well as appropriately posture first and emergency responders so they are ready, trained and able to protect life and property.

As communities and first and emergency responders learn from the unfortunate number of shootings that occur in the U.S., potentially more effective response paradigms are identified. One such change to responder tactics that was developed from lessons learned from shootings around the nation is an innovative joint effort between Fire and Emergency Services personnel and Security Forces Defenders commonly referred to as the Rescue Task force (RTF). 

Before the development of RTF concept, many victims in active shooter incidents were at risk of dying from injuries and trauma at the scene given the delay in transport to emergency medicine as police, law enforcement or, on an Air Force base, Security Forces cleared the scene. This delay was due to the extremely effort intensive nature of ensuring the shooter is apprehended or stopped before more harm could be done.

The confusion, uncertainties, and outright chaos of these violent events often delayed the treatment and transport of patients. Many victims of these shootings tragically succumbed to their injuries, but could have been saved, had they been transported more quickly or emergency medicine been provided.

The Rescue Task Force concept is intended to make the difference for these victims, providing emergency medicine at the scene, decreasing the delay in transport by accepting a higher volume of risk to responders in order to save lives. This concept teams Fire and Emergency Services personnel and Security Forces Defenders together so that they may begin a rescue effort shortly after Security Forces has engaged the perpetrators.

In the RTF concept, Defenders serve as armed escorts as firefighters provide live-saving bleeding control and move victims to safety for preparation for follow-on rapid transport. This concept requires deliberate specific training and changes to Security Forces and Fire and Emergency Services tactics, techniques and procedures in order to function smoothly, all in the service of protecting others.

From the lessons learned from other active shooter incidents, those victims who make it to a hospital alive, generally survive given the incredible efforts of medical professionals. The emergency medicine and reduction in time to transport for future victims will increase the number of survivors.

As the saying in the responder community goes: “seconds matter.” Emergency responders are always willing to “risk a lot to save a lot,” and in this case, it is the responders themselves willing to risk their well-being in order to save future victims. The Rescue Task Force concept allows those who signed up to make a difference, an even greater opportunity to take action and save lives.