South Florida first responders turn to MDA to help prepare for terrorist attacks

Posted By : Matt Sloan January 22, 2019

Miami (January 18, 2019) — In the aftermath of two of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history happening within their state’s borders, Florida first responders turned to Magen David Adom, Israel’s national EMS organization, for its expertise in dealing with another kind of potential mass-casualty incident — one involving a terrorist attack.

Guy Caspi, head of terrorism-response training for Magen David Adom, Israel’s national EMS organization, stressed the importance of coordination between EMS and law enforcement officials when responding to terror attacks.

First responders, including county and municipal EMTs and law-enforcement officials from Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties, attended seminars the week of January 14 conducted by Guy Caspi, the head of mass-casualty training for Magen David Adom. Following near daily terrorist attacks in Israel in the early 2000s and a number of wars involving missile, mortar, and rocket attacks on its major population centers, Magen David Adom emerged as the world’s most experienced mass-casualty response organization in the world.

“South Florida is faced with an increasing number of situations that could result in a high number of casualties,” said Gina Beato-Dominguez, a lieutenant with the Miami-Dade Police Department and the coordinator of the Southeast Regional Domestic Security Task Force. “The purpose of these ongoing seminars and drills is to prepare our first responders for a variety of situations that they might be activated for, whether it’s rescuing residents from hurricanes or providing aid to the injured during a terrorist attack — a scenario that, based on the 2016 Orlando nightclub attack, we know can happen here too.”

Reaching out to Magen David Adom to share its knowledge about responding to mass-casualty incidents was only natural, she said. Since 2000, Israel has had to contend with more than 1,300 terrorist attacks within its own borders and more than 15,000 rockets, mortars, and missiles fired by separate terrorist groups in Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria.

“Terrorism has been an issue since Israel’s founding,” said Magen David Adom’s Caspi. “But the Second Intifada [between 2000 and 2005] was a game-changer in that terrorist attacks went from being a sporadic occurrence to a near-daily one.

“Suddenly, as an EMS organization, we were faced with scenarios that in terms of both frequency and severity rendered the standard operational procedures and protocols of the day obsolete,” he said. “But what we learned during those years has relevance for EMS organizations throughout much of the world.”

Caspi said that Israel’s protocols now involve:

  • Keeping personal protective gear, such as helmets and flak jackets, on all its ambulances.
  • Having a discrete fleet of armored ambulances for getting casualties out of danger zones.
  • Establishing a clear chain of command and a way to easily identify the medical commander at the scene of a terror attack so EMTs know on arrival who’s in charge and assigning roles.
  • Having EMTs and paramedics enter “warm zones” after a terrorist bombing, accompanied by law-enforcement officials or bomb-squad sappers, to begin triage, provide lifesaving medical procedures, and evacuate casualties before they bleed out, measures that have greatly reduced fatalities in Israel.
  • Coordinating with law-enforcement in the immediate aftermath of terror attacks about the arrival of ambulances and the evacuation of casualties from the scene.

As a result of its experience responding to terrorism scenes, Magen David Adom has conducted seminars and training drills with first responders around the world, including in Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, India, the Philippines, and Australia.

“Some of the procedures we do in Israel is common sense,” Caspi said. “But much of it are things we learned from having to re-think some of the protocols when we realized they didn’t work for us any more — not under the circumstances we were facing. And we got to continually refine them under real-life scenarios. We became good at responding to terrorist attacks because, unfortunately, we had a lot of practice.”

Guy Caspi with Miami-Dade EMS, fire, and law-enforcement officials following his terrorism-response seminar in Miami last week. From left, Chief Rowan Taylor, EMS chief for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue; Captain Jason Hernandez of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue; Assistant Chief Arthur Holmes Jr. of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue; Guy Caspi; Juan Perez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department; Guy Gilady, deputy consul general of Israel to Florida; and Maurice L. Kemp, deputy mayor of Miami-Dade County.

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