Major Ambulance Delays in the Colorado Shooting Response Are Unacceptable

ambulanceAs we continue to grieve the many losses in the Colorado shooting massacre at last week's Dark Night Rises premiere, another glaring issue has arisen. There were major ambulance delays that meant that many who were critically injured lost vital moments to confusion and chaos. It's unclear if better preparedness would have saved more lives, but it's clear that something went very, very wrong.

It seems somehow, in the confusion, police were calling for more medical help even as two men were in an ambulance nearby just idling. Radio traffic shows that all responders were struggling to grasp just what was happening and respond appropriately. Some ambulances moved with haste, but it took dispatchers more than 20 minutes into the crisis to ask for help from other nearby departments. Critical moments were lost.

Ambulance delays in disasters truly make the difference between life and death. It's unacceptable.


Those in charge say that you learn from emergency to emergency and that next time will be better. But "next time" is a luxury 12 people don't have. They may not have died because the ambulances came late, but they may have, too.

Though, it's true, as experienced responders say, that "no response will be perfect," this is exactly the kind of situation for which they should be trained and ready to roll. The time for confusion is during training exercises, not during the actual emergency. SOME mistakes are understandable, but response time isn't one of them.

Obviously, mistakes happen in any business. In my business we misplace a comma or spell check doesn't catch a misspelled word. Maybe a contraction is poorly used or there is a grammatical error. Those aren't life and death mistakes. In certain professions, it's just not OK to make mistakes. Ever. Certain professions demand near perfection. If you can't handle it, don't go into it.

One of the cases cited here is Columbine. Apparently there were many mistakes made during that emergency response as well. That was in 1999. How have things not improved after that? Even more, they were in the SAME STATE. How has that not become part of the training?

If I were one of the families in Colorado, I would be furious, regardless of whether they can or can't prove a better response time would have saved lives. My heart breaks for them and I hope that no one ever says, "We'll be better next time" after this. With something like this, there is only now.

Do you think ambulance delays are a problem in general?


Image via stevendamron/Flickr

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