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Las Vegas emergency personnel holding mass casualty training this month

Yvette Fernandez/KNPR

It was the unthinkable ... until it happened. The 1 October shooting remains the worst domestic terrorist case in U.S. history after a lone gunman shot at thousands of concertgoers.   

That 2017 tragedy provided lessons for emergency personnel. 

On Tuesday, firefighters and hospital emergency staff conducted a mock training session at University Medical Center in Las Vegas to improve their disaster response when there’s a mass patient surge.  

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Each patient is immediately tagged with a color. Green for victims who may be wounded but still alert, yellow for victims who may need some care, red for those who are critical, needing immediate medical help, and black for those who are considered "DOA."  

The use of color codes helps quickly identify the severity of the wounded all arriving at the hospital at the same time. UMC Clinical Director Jeff Castillo said the single most important element is communication.   

"The patients were coming in by private vehicles, Uber, trucks, so there is no communication and the triage is on the scene," he said.

Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Billy Samuels said mock emergencies are as real as exercises can be, still providing useful training. 

"The one thing we can't show is the hysteria of friends and family that are going to be showing up," Samuels said.

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Every hospital and fire department in the Las Vegas Valley is participating in these exercises this month. 

Yvette Fernandez is the regional reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau. She joined Nevada Public Radio in September 2021.