The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

What I learned by Playing a Victim in a Live Shooter Training - Info for Writers

Fake blood coagulates like real blood 

It's not how every girl likes to spend her Saturdays; but for me as a citizen and as a writer, it was awesome! I was a volunteer victim at an army base. The responders there were training trainers from other states in how to set up live shooter response courses.

How did I get involved?
I'm a member of CERT and a member of the Medical Reserve Corps (for mental health). To read more about these learning opportunities, read THIS ARTICLE. When a call goes out for volunteers, I do my best to show up. As a matter of fact, I'm scheduled to be in a plane crash in April. Stay tuned for more about that.

Why is it important to have live victims involved?
To be clear there were live victims and there were manikin victims. The manikin victims are created to allow tracheotomies and other invasive procedures. They are also severely wounded -  bi-amputations, perforations of the cavity with intestines dangling out. They have robotic aspects to mimic (via radio command) breathing, gurgling, screaming etc. But these are still plastic. 

It is important to remember that responders are human beings. When human beings are faced with a dangerous situation their bodies respond, like all bodies do, with an increase in adrenaline (among other hormones). Adrenaline messes with your body. In a situation like the one we presented, one would expect such things as:
  • clumsiness and loss of fine motor capability
  • tunnel vision
  • distortions of time
  • distortions of sound
  • difficulty thinking and processing.

What researches have found is that newer experiences have a more profound impact and that an individual can handle the situation better if they've dealt with it before.

Hence,  we volunteers are moulaged (more about that in a second) to make it look like we've sustained a wound, and we act our part. We are in shock. We scream. We fight. We pass out. Basically, it's our job to present as if this were really happening so that it's not new to responders when they show up at a real-deal.

For this training, we were mimicking a live shooter event inside a dorm.

My assignment was to be stabbed (or shot) in the throat - the responder wouldn't know, and I couldn't tell them. 
LET ME BE CLEAR - I was not actually injured. I was never in any danger.

Getting into character - moulage.

Moulage is a word that means making fake wounds for responder training. There's an art to it. This is how they made my neck wound.

  1. They came around and smeared spirit gum on the areas of our wounds (there were 18 of us 9 men and 9 women. The men were given the abdominal wounds. 8 of the women had arm and leg wounds. I had a neck wound.)
  2. They next came around with liquid latex that they smeared on and let set.
  3. The third pass was with a small spatula that crafted the latex into the wound with "raised flesh" around the periphery.
  4. Below is a picture of stage 4 
    where they painted on theatrical makeup in red and blue to form the base of the wound.
  5. The next step was to smear on an unctuous gel that gave the wound depth.
    it didn't look at all like a surface scratch but a deep wound.
  6. They used a spatula to apply liquid blood that ran freaking everywhere and coagulated in my hair.

Getting the heck out of there. Here are some writing points that I picked up to share with you:
  • They manipulated my limbs with my clothing. That is, they gathered and pulled my legs and feet with the cuffs of my pants. My arms were moved by the sleeves of my shirt. When they did this the cloth from my clothing supported my whole limb rather than say dangling from and ankle or a wrist.
  • When they were moving my body into a straight line, they used the waist band of my pants to get a grip on my center. Again, this felt more stable as the cloth supported my hips rather than putting hands on either side and lifting. It meant that I would not slip out of their grip
  • While being manipulated by my clothing, I wished my clothing choice had been a little tighter. My pants were scooching down my hips.
  • They used a carrier that was basically a piece of cloth with handles. This allowed them to get me around corners with a great deal more ease than a flat solid board.
  • To place me on the carrier, they rolled me in one direction - this was a two person deal, and they used my clothes to manipulate me. They then shoved the cloth under me and rolled me back. Lastly, they adjusted me onto the middle. 
  • While they were rolling me, they were also searching my body for any other wounds. They were especially looking for an exit wound. Not finding an exit wound seemed to ramp their concern and upped my level of care. 
  • There are 4 levels of triage (rudiments of the stages to give you a flavor). These are indicated by tying a piece of colored plastic ribbon on the wrist (if there is a wrist). I was red tagged.
    • black = dead or beyond hope
    • red = life threatening first to get response
    • yellow = wounded but stable and needing assistance getting out.
    • green = wounded but ambulatory
  • I have hair that falls below my shoulders. When they placed me on the carrier my hair fell over the end, and it got stepped on. Who knew that could happen? In the grand scheme of things, it was so minor.
  • It took 4 people to get me down the three flights of stairs: one at my head, one at my feet, and one on either side of me. They began with just 2 people one at the top and one at the bottom of the stretcher. Quickly, others joined in to get me out -- I was gurgling and needed a tracheotomy.
  • On the stairs, the angle to get me down meant that I was sliding out the bottom. They had to both lift my weight and push the sides in to keep me from sliding down the fabric. The guy at the bottom had the biggest trouble. Well, now that I think of it, the guy at the top wasn't so easy either. The guy who lifted my head had to lift me high enough that I wasn't clunking my head down the stairs but not so much that my airway was cut off or that my body slid toward my feet. My head never clunked, during either of the two scenarios they ran.
  • When we were not going down the stairs, they slid me down the hall rather than lift. This saved their strength for those three long flights.

Me and two of my CERT pals, catching our breath and regrouping before we went back in the dorm and let the heroes (both males and females) save us for a second time. Mel, on the right, had a sucking chest wound so he was red tagged too. He seemed to be handling the discomfort pretty well. (Big thank you to Mel for sharing his photos) And Anna had a severed artery so she was passed out the whole time.

And that was my adventure - bet it shows up somewhere in my next plot.

Find similar articles under the tab at the top of this page marked "TO THE RESCUE."

As always, a big thank you ThrillWriters and readers for stopping by. Thank you, too, for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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