How training helped Las Vegas first responders respond to the deadly attack
The October incident in Las Vegas is the deadliest mass shooting committed by a single person in the U.S. throughout the country's history. That said, the number of casualties could have been much higher. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, emergency responders credit their years of training for their efficient response, which helped them save an untold number of victims.
A thorough response that saved lives
Overall, 160 firefighters responded to the attack, according to the Review-Journal. The majority were from the Clark County Fire Department, while the remainder came from the Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson Departments.
According to Clark County Fire Department Chief Greg Cassell, the first responders learned from prior events like the shootings at Columbine and Aurora. He said there would have been many more casualties had the Las Vegas attack occurred a decade ago.
"We knew what to do," Cassell told numerous reporters, according to the Review-Journal. "It was much grander than we ever envisioned. However, we were able to handle it because of our people, our training, our professionalism and our equipment and our relationships."
"Knowing their city could be a target, firefighters and police began training years ago."
Las Vegas police and firefighters, knowing their popular city could be the target of a terrorist event, began training in counterterrorism efforts after the 2009 attacks in Mumbai, India. Now, all Las Vegas first responders participate in drills run at schools, hotels, hospitals and malls.
Help from strangers blocks away
Additionally, average citizens stayed on the scene to help the injured, further preventing more deaths. Cassell noted these individuals, as well as the paramedics and other first responders, performed wonderfully under fire.
Some of the assisting citizens were in fact military veterans. According to a local Fox affiliate, Portland resident and Army veteran Austin Depiazza ran to the gunfire when he was first alerted of the attack.
Depiazza arrived in Las Vegas a few hours before the attack with a few military friends, Jose Ortiz, Edward Prince and Keith Hewitt. They were at a casino two blocks away when a woman ran in and alerted everyone to the situation. Depiazza and his friends headed to the venue, tearing down a fence in order to get inside and help the injured, all while the gunfire continued.
"Trying to help the ones that lost people there, that was the biggest thing, getting them to safety," Depiazza told the news station. "Because they wanted to stay there with their loved ones, which I understand, but we had to do everything to help."
Of course, active-duty servicemembers on the scene helped where they could as well. As the Tribunist reported, Army soldier Matthew Cobos's heroic actions were captured in one of the most iconic photographs of the attack. In the image, Cobos is physically shielding a woman on the ground, using his body to protect her from gunfire. He even reportedly held his hand in front of her eyes to prevent her from witnessing the devastation. At one point, Cobos was able to move the unidentified woman to a safe location before returning to help others who had been injured.
These stories reveal the strength and courage of first responders, veterans and ordinary citizens. They also emphasize the importance of proper training, both of which the responders and servicemembers had. With their direction, concert-goers and people standing by were able to provide assistance without causing further chaos.