Aug 28, 2023

IAEP Members Respond to California Mass Shooting

Members of the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics (IAEP) Local R12-370 were on scene to treat the victims of a mass shooting at a biker bar in Orange County, California on August 23. Three people were killed.

Local 370 President, NAGE National Executive Board member and Per-Diem National Representative Ryan Walters was one of the EMS professionals who responded to the 911 call that night. The call brought Walters and 30 other IAEP members to Cook’s Corner, a biker bar located in a small community 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles, where they stayed on the scene throughout.
 
Walters and his unit were heading back to their station from a hospital call that evening when they heard the radio traffic tip: multiple gunshot wound victims, with 12 additional people injured.
 
“And that just put us into work mode,” Walters said. “No hesitation, we just booked it up there.”
 
The unit could see the flashing lights in the distance from miles out as they approached the scene. Walters recalled “a sea of red, white and blue” emanating from the emergency vehicles as they pulled in to join the dozens of police and fire units already parked at the bar.
 
Orange county authorities have reported that the shooting was perpetrated by a 67-year-old man who targeted his soon-to-be ex-wife who was dining at the bar before he began firing at random. Deputies arrived on scene and shot the perpetrator when he began firing on them. The perpetrator died on scene, as well as two other victims who were shot by the perpetrator.
 
Walters and the rest of the first responders on the scene immediately got to work assessing the situation and administering care. They treated wounds, applied tourniquets, and helped those in shock in the midst of the chaos.
 
With the help of their care, six people were transported to Providence Mission Hospital, where they are now in stable condition. One person has been released so far.
 
Walters expressed his condolences and unwavering support to the victims and the entire Orange County community, emphasizing that he and his EMS colleagues will always be there for them.
 
“We're fighting for them every day,” Walters said. “We want to be there in their worst moments and be there in their best moments; they can count on us. I think that's the number one thing: when things turn bad, we're going to be there, and we want to be there.”
 
This support, of course, doesn’t come without a cost to EMS professionals. A study conducted by the Journal of Emergency Medical Services in 2022 found that 35 percent of EMS personnel are diagnosed with PTSD or meet PTSD criteria over the course of their career, often stemming from traumatic events they witness on the job.
 
Walters said that it’s important to continue to seek out support for these EMS professionals who are impacted so they may continue to best serve themselves and their communities.
 
“As far as mental health services for our members goes, we need to keep fighting for those rights and privileges our peers have,” Walters said. “And we need to keep going even going further because we've seen people be deeply affected by these things and end their careers over it.”
 
Overall, Walters said, he is grateful for the community he serves and hopes to continue seeing their mutual system of support grow so that both civilians and EMS professionals can remain safe, healthy, and cared for.
 
“We live in a world today that is defined by mass tragedy,” he said. “And these things can happen anywhere at any time, for any reason. We couldn’t do our work without our partner next to us, our fellow union members who strive for excellent patient care, making sure we have enough resources, enough training, and enough protections to staff these ambulance companies adequately so we can continue to serve our communities effectively.”
 
The IAEP encourages those seeking mental health resources to visit www.naemt.org/resources/wellness/ems-mental-health for free counseling services.

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