“If you’re planning on taking up arms, plan on getting hurt.”
In the unlikely and unfortunate event that someone is severely injured in a firearms training class or competition, every individual present should know without a doubt who is responsible for performing specific duties as well as what they and every other individual are supposed to do and in exactly what order they’re supposed to do it.
Knowing these things is impossible without a plan that has been shared and confirmed with everyone present before the training or the competition begins. In my experience, though, such plans seldom if ever exist.
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Imagine the following scenarios:
- You’re in a pistol class with several other people. While drawing his pistol from the holster, the guy next to you negligently discharges into his own leg…
- While you’re in a license-to-carry qualification, the woman three lanes down from yours has a pistol malfunction, calls the range officer over to help, and negligently discharges into his chest…
- You’re at a 3-gun match. While in the course of running a stage, one of the competitors trips, falls, and discharges his shotgun, striking you and two other onlookers…
This isn’t made up. All of these things have happened. Now, given these events, reflect on your past experience at gun ranges, courses, and competitions and answer these questions:
- What was the plan for this eventuality, as explained by the instructor or by an official at the event or facility?
- Who, either involved in the activity or in the vicinity, is the go-to medic?
- Who among the others in attendance has medical training? What kind?
- Where is the med kit(s) located?
- For what sorts of trauma is the med kit useful and not useful?
- Who in attendance has medical supplies on their person or in their range bag? What kind? Where?
- What should everyone else in attendance do; what is the emergency procedure or what are the steps they should take? In what order? Culminating in what resolution?
When you go to a gun range for a class or competition, do you know the answers to all of these questions? To any of them? Sometimes? Always? Never?
I have to wonder. My guess is that neither you nor most folks could say that they’ve ever been to training or an event where all or perhaps even any of those aforementioned issues were covered to any satisfactory degree. In my experience, gun ranges, course instructors, and competition event organizers are in the habit of focusing exclusively on reviewing the 4 rules of gun safety as the sole way to address these issues; meaning, they don’t address them at all.
Certainly my experience is anecdotal, but having participated in almost two dozen courses and dozens of competitions at various facilities should provide some clear insight into common conventions. Even if some exceptional instructors or facilities or events work to cover all of these issues, I have to believe that many, possibly most, do not.
That is a problem.
What to Do?
While I am neither a firearms instructor nor range officer nor physician, I have some thoughts on these matters that I believe should be considered by those who are.
What follows is a sample plan template that I believe should be adopted in some form by all instructors and event range officers, then presented and confirmed before the event begins.
A Firearms-Event Emergency Plan
- Define the medical first responder
I (or some designated person) have emergency medical training. So in the event of negligent discharge trauma or other injury, [that person] will be the primary medical responder for evaluation and treatment. As such, [that person] will begin treatment and suggest whether or not to call 911 emergency services. Now, who else here has medical training? What kind?
- Make sure everyone knows who these medically trained people are.
- Designate a backup
If I/he/she [the primary medical responder] is the one injured, then you/he/she [define the person] will be the primary medical responder AND will recommend whether or not to call 911 emergency services.
- Define who calls 911
In the event it becomes necessary, you [some person] will be responsible for calling 911 emergency services while the injured person(s) is being treated. If you [that person] are the one who is injured, then you [some other person] will be responsible for calling 911.
- Confirm that these individuals are up to the task.
- Ensure these people have good cell reception – and/or – make sure everyone knows where the nearest land line is.
- Confirm/show where the facility’s street address is written down for reference.
- Identify the medical supplies
The primary medical kit is [define location – don’t tell, but show everyone where it is]. This kit can handle [these sorts of trauma] but is not equipped to handle [these sorts of trauma]. If required, you [some person] will be responsible for retrieving the med kit and you [some other person] will do this if the first one cannot. After you have secured your firearm, announce what you’re doing and then bring the med kit to the primary medical responder.
Now, who here has medical supplies on their person? What kind? And who here has medical supplies in their range bag? What kind?
- The instructor or range officer may want to make a list of names and specific supplies for later reference.
- Account for an unattended firearm(s)
If the discharged weapon, or any other, is lying on the ground/bench and is unattended, then you/he/she [some person] will be responsible for clearing and securing the weapon. And you/he/she [some person] is their backup if you’re unable to do so. After you have secured your own firearm, announce what you’re doing and retrieve and clear the weapon and place it [in this defined location].
- Define everyone’s immediate job
In the event that someone is struck by a negligent discharge, the first thing everyone should do is immediately make their weapons safe, either by moving to the safe area to clear and holster the weapon—or—by simply holstering their weapon. Rifles (if contextually appropriate) should be cleared and placed in this rack/area.
After doing so, those of you already given jobs should accomplish your tasks calmly and quickly. Those others with medical training should remain in the immediate vicinity ready to lend assistance if needed.
Everyone else should stay clear of those working to assist the injured person(s) and everyone here should refrain from un-holstering or otherwise touching weapons until the instructor or range officer says otherwise.
- If there’s some other requirement of folks, be sure to mention it.
- Review and confirm
So to review: first thing everyone does is make all firearms and the area safe. Next, those with a specific job will do them, as necessary:
- Who is the primary medical responder? Secondary?
- Who is my 911 caller if needed? And their backup?
- Who’s getting the med kit? Who is backup?
- Who will collect and clear any unattended weapons? And their backup?
- Okay, what is everyone else going to do?
Be sure to get unanimous, clear acknowledgement on each of these review points.
I don’t know if this fits every firearms class or competition, but I believe something like this should be implemented as component to every class and match.
This sort of plan ensures that everyone first works to make the area safe and everyone knows who will initially attend the injured and handle emergency logistics and communications should they become necessary. Whether or not this specific plan is appropriate for every situation, at least the primary bases have been covered, with contingencies, and everyone in attendance knows what they should do. I believe that’s a big win and a minimum standard to meet.
Those of you with more contextual experience might recommend a slightly different plan, but for goodness sake, make a comprehensive plan like this and bring it to bear in every firearms class and every competition. If you’re already doing so, please publish your plan and let others learn from your good example! In any event, let’s not continue to leave any of these vital, lifesaving things to chance.
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