Faced with new threats, first responders put their training to the test in 2014. Law enforcement agencies, disaster workers and even school teachers learned new practices and honed their instincts to better allow them to survive stressful situations while caring for others.

As the year comes to an end, we look back on how comprehensive training strategies contributed to effective emergency responses:

Cross-disciplinary training improves survival chances
The period of time immediately following a traumatic injury is referred to as the “Golden Hour” because a patient’s chance of survival increases with the care they receive during this window. This is true even when the most qualified emergency professional is not the first on scene. Ensuring that people are prepared to react quickly to patient needs involves training across disciplines.

In the same way tactical medical teams attend to wounded individuals when the area is not yet secure, firefighters may encounter emergency medical needs before EMTs arrive on the scene. With expanded training scenarios, these first responders can better prepare for the health challenges they face in crises such as earthquakes and active shooter incidents. By working collaboratively with law enforcement and EMTs, firefighters can save more lives regardless of who reaches the emergency first.

According to the FBI, the number of active shooter incidents in the U.S. dramatically increased since 2000. These situations arise quickly and end within 15 minutes, necessitating an immediate and effective response to prevent deaths. With the rise in campus violence, sometimes teachers are the first responders to an emergency. Simply understanding safety protocols is not enough—educators need proper crisis training to allow them to react quickly to volatile situations. Active shooter response simulations train participants to identify potential dangers before they occur and take immediate steps for treating wounded students when they do.

Preparing citizens for crisis promotes resiliency
Certain areas of the country can suffer natural disasters without much notice. Although forecasting earthquakes is challenging and underscores how little we know about these events, officials in Alaska improved their preparedness by coordinating a training event that simulated conditions and damage from the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. The exercise highlighted the benefits of public and private collaboration to prepare for extreme disasters.

While zombie outbreaks are reserved for works of fiction, undead survival tactics have proven an effective means of engaging the public in disaster preparedness. Coupled with the popularity of popular cable television show “The Walking Dead,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention successfully distributed educational materials that urge residents to develop emergency plans for a zombie apocalypse and gather enough supplies to last three days.

Strategies like these are being rewarded through the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, a grant to help cities become more resilient by addressing growing social, economic, and physical challenges. As part of 100RC Challenge, a new position—Chief Resilience Officer (CRO)—will be responsible for coordinating disaster relief initiatives for their city, taking an in-depth look into the region’s infrastructure, and developing more effective plans to handle earthquakes, floods or man-made disasters.

Military training takes a cue from blue-chip athletes
Soldiers are most effective when they can utilize a unique blend of physical and mental fitness. Because service members are held to high physical standards and have to operate at peak levels to be efficient, military trainers look to athletes as a model for fitness programs.

Navy Capt. Tom Chaby created the Preservation of the Force and Family initiative to turn soldiers into “tactical athletes.” The program covers multiple aspects of the fitness training, strengthening physical conditioning, mental health, and spiritual resiliency. Strategies gleaned from college and professional athletics programs can reduce the time and money spent on treatment and rehabilitation due to battlefield injuries.

The Hostage Rescue Team sets a high bar
First created in 1983 as part of preparations for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the HRT is one of the government’s most elite counterterrorism units. Following the events of 9/11, the division expanded its operations by actively recruiting agents with specialized knowledge and unique skills.

Today, the HRT engages in missions around the globe that involve high-stress scenarios. To prepare them for these situations, agents must complete extensive training assignments. Only the best candidates are selected by the FBI at the conclusion of the eight-month program—about 300 officers successfully finished the program in its 31-year history. Skills gained through this rigorous training allow HRT agents to thwart would-be terrorists and kidnappers.

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