DENHAM SPRINGS — Emergency personnel in Livingston Parish are learning a new way to respond to active shooters that mimics battlefield medicine by bringing medical personnel onto the scene even as a shooter is still at large.

"Your whole concept is around speed, stop the bleeding and stop the killing," said Charles Mondrick, a deputy chief for the Central Fire Department, who assisted on a training session Tuesday. "It's like battlefield medicine. You treat only the gross bleeding that is life threatening. You stop that, you get them out, you get them to the triage treatment area."

Firefighters are being taught to enter the scene before the situation is fully under control and begin applying tourniquets and other life-saving devices when the situation is still fluid.

In the rehearsal Tuesday, about 100 law enforcement, fire and ambulance workers acted out a scenario in which an armed man breaks into a church and starts shooting.

Can't see video below? Click here.

The training reflects a change in thinking around the country in the wake of mass shootings at schools, movie theaters and work places that the best practice is to start administering medical aid as soon as possible.

"We've learned over the years that we can actually be saving lives if we can train our medical personnel and fire personnel to enter warm zones, try to get them there quicker to render aid," said Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard, whose office coordinated Tuesday's training.

A warm zone is when the shooting is halted, and the situation may be closer to 50 percent safe, Ard said. Previously, fire and medical personnel would wait until it became a cold zone, or the full situation was cleared, to enter.

The change in protocol for fire and medical personnel reflects what has taken place for police responses since the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, said Denham Springs Police Chief Shannon Womack.

At that time, standard policy was for officers to wait outside until the SWAT team arrived, Womack said. Now, police officers are instructed to run towards the gunfire and into the "hot zone." 

Ard said this is the first time his office organized this particular training, which he would like to conduct annually.

Mondrick, who has developed similar protocols in East Baton Rouge Parish, said fire personnel are trained to stage near an active shooter scene. As soon as an area of the building is secure, even if the shooter is still engaged in a gunfight in another part of the building, the fire personnel can enter with a law enforcement escort.

Drew King, paramedic field supervisor for Acadian Ambulance Service, said his EMT's would stay in the cold zone and do triage, more advanced level care and hospital transfers.

Represented at the event were officers from the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office and the police departments in Walker, Denham Springs and Port Vincent. Emergency medical technicians from Acadian Ambulance and firefighters from the Denham Springs Fire Department and Livingston Parish Fire Protection Districts 4 and 5 also attended the training.


Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.