Cumberland County has new way of helping victims during active shooter situations

CARLISLE, Pa. -- The Columbine High School massacre, the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Virginia Tech shooting: tragedies no one can forget.

But they are tragedies that turned into wake up calls for law enforcement.

Craig Scott was a 16-year-old student at Columbine High School in 1999.

"It took them hours before they got into the building. Hours before they discovered the shooters were dead," he said.

Carlisle Police Sergeant Dave Miller said, "Columbine was something we call a sentinel event. It's not the first time it had happened, but as a result of it happening, emergency services just stepped back and tried to examine what we did during something like Columbine."

When two students went into Columbine High School and started shooting their classmates, emergency medical help had to wait to get into the school to help the wounded.

Miller said, "And so often, scenes had to be controlled for awhile while the police went in, they sought out any kind of threats and stopped those threats. In the meantime there are people that were injured that are still in there, and they need assistance."

Scott saw the massacre at Columbine firsthand.

He said, "I had two friends next to me underneath the table that were killed, and then later learned that my sister Rachel Joy Scott was the first one that was killed."

He managed to escape unharmed and get to others who were not so lucky.

Scott said, "There were students that were with us that were injured, that were bleeding. We were taking off our clothes and tying up other students' wounds."

Scott said he believes at least one person bled to death waiting for help at Columbine.

A rescue task force could have made all the difference.

Miller said, "We're looking back on it. We think how everybody did their jobs very well, but we did them separately. So if we come together, and we function together better as these small teams, can we save even more lives?"

And they'll do it by sending in police units, along with medical help. Even if a shooter is still firing away at more victims.

Miller said, "Rescue task force would be a small unit comprised of police, fire and EMS personnel, and we would work together in that small unit and go into the situation and try to rescue the injured."

Scott said, "I wish that we had had that at Columbine. I wish that that had been present at other school shootings or other shooting situations."

Cumberland County agencies gave us a look at how the rescue task force works. It's team work with the threat of being under fire.

Holy Spirit EMS supervisor Ben Specht said, "We'll be very closely monitored by law enforcement security. We're not going anywhere without them."

Specht said bleeding victims can quickly run out of time.

"There's going to be a lot of chaos, there's going to be people screaming. But we need to assess the people that really need our skills right away. This is when minutes really count," Specht said.

He added, "We have a lot of patients and we don't have a lot of resources. And we need to treat many patients down the road. So if I can get to a patient and I can assess to make sure they're not going to die in the next 10 minutes and just treat those injuries, then I'm going to keep moving on to the next patients."

Scott said, "It's encouraging to know that EMT will get in. They will come to you, rather than the police having to bring the injured to the EMT."

Cumberland County isn't the only one with a rescue task force in the state. South Central task force is comprised of seven counties in Pennsylvania and has been training with the concept of rescue task force.

Other parts of the country have used a rescue task force in tragedies like San Bernardino to prevent some of those victims from suffering the same fate as the victims of previous massacres.