Dressed in tactical gear and a gas mask, a man opened fire on the midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado on Friday. When it was over, more than 70 people were injured or killed.
Anyone interested in first aid or emergency services may naturally wonder: "What if I'd been in that theater?"
Hopefully, you'd find cover. Some of the stories I've heard really illustrate how well folks can adapt to a dangerous situation.
Once the shooting stopped there were victims to attend to, and knowledge is power. Gunshot wounds present a unique challenge. Often, they don't look as bad as they are. Victims lose blood into large body cavities that hide the blood very easily. Shock is a real concern.
The most important thing you can do in a shooting is act quickly and seek help. I've read reports that at least some of the first victims to arrive at the hospital got there in the back of police cars. I don't recommend skipping an ambulance and heading straight for the ER if you've been shot or stabbed, but it shows just how important quick action is.
As silly as it sounds, you need to call 911 even when it's a theater full of victims. Don't assume anyone else will call. The reality is that there will be multiple calls to 911 from a mass casualty incident like this one, but there are several recorded instances of significant injuries involving crowds that didn't get a 911 call for a very long time. In each case, everyone involved thought someone else would call for help.
When you call 911, it might take you off guard if the call doesn't go how you think it will. For example, cell phone users who call 911 in California get a phone tree that asks them to "press 1" if they are reporting a drunk driver. When the call taker does get on the line, the questions may come in rapid fire pace. Don't let it overwhelm you. The call taker will slow down if you need to.
If you're going to call 911 from a cell phone, know where you are when you call. Most cellular phone calls still don't give location information to the emergency call centers, despite federal rules saying they must.
If you tell someone else to call 911 (like you're taught to do in CPR class), make sure you tell them why. There are 911 call recordings of people telling the dispatcher that they didn't know why they were calling, just that someone told them to do it.
In any emergency, it is absolutely imperative that you remain safe. Each person who gets hurt complicates the situation for responders. Slow down, take a breath and think through any actions you take.