Erie County deputies train with law enforcement agencies all over the state at least four times a year to prepare for the threat of an active shooter.
Chief of Special Services, Scott Patronik, tells 2 On Your Side they practice responding to large indoor and outdoor scenarios.
He and Capt. Warren Hawthorne admit there are areas where they could improve, such as response times. "Unfortunately, geographically this is a large county," explains Capt. Hawthorne, who says SWAT team members are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"And our swat team members, they live throughout the county. So, our goal is to respond within 45 minutes," Hawthorne said.
"You want to have the resources, and not need them. Versus needing the resources and not have them," admits Chief Patronik. "There's always a fine balance of how many resources we can justify and have on hand, but we're taking a close look and are actually in some discussions to try to speed up the response time."
That's just one of the things they say they'll be talking about at a training session next week, focused on active shooter response, command and coordination.
Patronik and Gregory Gill, Deputy Commissioner of EMS Services with Erie County Emergency Services, both say coordinating patient transport is a huge factor when it comes to a mass shooting situation. There are about 150 ambulances available, between Erie County EMS and private companies. But Gill says communication and quick onsite triage can be more important than hundreds of transport vehicles.
Currently, there are 19 Erie County deputies cross-trained as EMT's.
"They can get into the areas that are dangerous, secure the area, and take care of patients before we'll ever get EMS people in," explains Gill.
"Our primary phase is going to be to stop the shooting," adds Patronik. "We want to minimize the number of casualties we see at that scene. And our second goal then, is to stop the bleeding."
Erie County emergency responders also have a program called SMART. It's a team of doctors that can head out to an active shooter scene and assess and treat victims right there.
Paramedics say this helps get critically injured victims to hospitals faster and keeps emergency rooms from getting overloaded.