The importance of giving a Safety Briefing and developing an Emergency Procedures Plan for your courses.

Last year while teaching a Counter Ambush course to a mixed class of Law Enforcement Officers and Licensed Security Guards, one of my students, a forty-seven (47) year old male experienced a myocardial infarction, that is the medical term for a heart attack. When I spoke with him last week he got on me a little for not posting this blog and talking about this very important topic, he has long since returned to full-duty and is doing very well.

Let me give you a little background, a little over a month prior to that particular course I purchased a Phillips HeartStart OnSite Automated External Defibrillator or AED like the one in the link above. This had been something I was wanting to do for a year or so before and in my opinion, it is an essential piece of equipment for any firearms instructor obviously along with a well-stocked trauma bag/medical kit.

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On the day of the event, I had given a safety briefing and knew that I had a Paramedic and two EMT’s in the course. Knowing that made it easy for me to volunteer them to act in case of a medical emergency. All three had brought their personal trauma bags, but none had an AED with them. Just so you know, they all carry an AED in their vehicles now.

Let us start with the outline of a good safety briefing. The National Rifle Association recommends that each safety briefing should encompass the following:

  • The purpose of the shooting event/Introduction of Range Personnel
  • Range layout and limits
  • Range safety rules
  • Firing line commands
  • Emergency Procedures

In these items, there are plenty of subcategories that we can get into, for the purposes of this blog posting I am only going to focus on Emergency Procedures.

Since I teach a wide variety of curriculum mostly my own, I have had to develop my own set of emergency procedures that are able to be modified to meet the needs of the various venues where I teach throughout the country. One very important thing to remember is that your emergency procedures plan must comply with any local range rules and standard operating procedures on dealing with such incidents. This is precisely why communication with your course host and or the range owners and operators is so important.

Take a look at this short video by Ken Hackathorn, “Prerequisites for Taking Your Training Classes on the Road.” In this video, Ken addresses the safety briefing for traveling instructors; however, it applies just as well to those instructors who teach at their home club or local public range.

Diving a little deeper, with each and every course that I teach, one person is designated as a primary and one as a backup for key roles in the event that we need to initiate the emergency procedures plan, these key roles are listed below:

  • Emergency Medic
  • Trauma/Medical Bag Runner
  • A person to take charge of the firing line making sure all firearms are secured and also to keep everyone away from crowding the person being treated.
  • A person to call 9-1-1 with a script and physical location memorized.
  • A person to meet Emergency Services and Law Enforcement at the entrance to the range complex and lead them to the location of the emergency.
  • A person to take notes. Provide this person with a notebook and pen that should be kept near the trauma/medical bag. This person should have good penmanship, you’ll thank me later for that small piece of advice.
  • A person to inform range control or anyone else on-site that we have an emergency and have called 9-1-1. (Many ranges that I train at are a part of a larger complex with a central range operations office and some have absolutely nothing, it is up to you to have a plan)

Now I know what you are thinking, what if I am doing a one-on-one coaching session or teaching a course that only has four or five students? That’s easy, you must modify your plan to cover that possibility.

Once you have laid out your emergency procedures plan, you need to take the time to let your designated medic get familiar with your trauma/medical bag and its contents and then you should coach the others on what you expect them to do in performing their roles and answer any questions from them before you start any live fire exercises.

As a suggestion, I like to use the back of a target to write down everyone’s name and assignment along with the physical location of the range. See the example below from a recent course that I taught at my local gun club, this was a sixteen person course and as you see I needed thirteen volunteers plus myself. I also assigned my assistant instructors roles to help out as well because of their inside knowledge of the facility and local range rules.

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It is important to note that more often than not I will assign myself the task of making the 9-1-1 call, I know many of the questions that they will be asking and have a prepared script, but not always do I do this because some facilities I train at have their own procedures to follow.

Remember that no two facilities operate the same and some will want you to follow their emergency procedures plan in accordance with their range standard operating procedures so, make sure your responsibilities are understood well in advance of the course and if you are in a remote location you should also plan to have a helipad set up in case you need it, ask me how I know to plan for this… Yep, I have seen someone evacuated from a range with an injury (Compound fracture of the tibia) via helicopter.

I also recommend that when you give your safety briefing it should be done in full view of the range and not inside a classroom. One thing I do when teaching a multiple-day course is to revisit the briefing each day and make sure that everyone reaffirms that they are still capable of performing their designated roles in the event of an emergency.

In executing an emergency procedures plan you must first determine if the emergency is one that requires a call to 9-1-1 and possible transport. Some trainers get into the mindset that the only emergency they might experience on the range is to have a student with a self-inflicted gunshot wound or worse someone else gets shot negligently or accidentally, you decide on which word to use. Truthfully, that is one of the least likely of scenarios; however, it is one that must be planned for and one must be prepared for, but candidly, you are more likely to see anything from snake bites to twisted ankles and even heat casualties.

Speaking of heat casualties, you should also have some crushable ice packs on hand during the summer months, you can find them at your local CVS or Walgreens pharmacy. A substitute would be to use some ziplock bags and bring a bag of ice for your cooler with cold drinks. Another thing is to have a supply of sports drinks, e.g. Powerade or Gatorade not just for yourself, but an emergency stash as well.

Other things that I recommend you have in a separate bag is a variety of pain relievers, including aspirin, ibuprofen, and other NSAID’s, e.g., Tylenol or Aleve and don’t forget Benedryl in both liquid and capsules for allergic reactions to anything from an insect bite to a brush with poison ivy.

Additionally, make sure that you have a “Boo-Boo Kit” with a variety of band-aids, alcohol swabs, and things like Neosporin and a small bottle of liquid skin for cuts and blisters is a good thing to have as well. When I teach locally or within driving distance, I also bring an assortment of bug spray and sunscreen, this is invaluable and I find that even though it is in a list of suggested items for students to bring it is usually the one thing they most often forget.

It is worthy to note that myself and many other trainers are requiring both assistant instructors and students to have a belt mounted tourniquet on them during their courses and some including myself have been including a block of instruction in each course on the proper application of a tourniquet; however, this is not standard in the industry, at least yet anyway.

In summary, being prepared saved the life of my student who experienced a heart attack, as an instructor you should be asking yourself right now if you are prepared for the same or worse. It’s not enough to have the equipment, you also need training in basic first aid procedures, so go and get some training, I can refer you to several companies that do basic first aid/CPR certifications and even those that teach the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (T.C.C.C.) courses as well.

Thanks for checking in, and until next time, be vigilant, be the best and as always, live life abundantly.

Train hard so you can fight easy!

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