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ICSAVE offers Arizonans free lifesaving training for active shooter incidents

Green Valley Fire Captain Mark Lytle, a member of ICSAVE’s team of volunteers, learned about Israeli emergency medical services as part of Tucson’s first Firefighters Without Borders delegation in October 2013. The Magen David Adom (Red Shield of David) is Israel’s national ambulance, blood services, and disaster relief organization. It has been a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement since 2006. (Photo courtesy Mark Lytle)

Mark Lytle, a native Tucsonan who has worked in the fire service for 24 years, is part of a coalition of first responders who created Integrated Community Solutions to Active Violence Events, or ICSAVE, to provide free active violence trainings to schools, religious institutions, and other groups across Arizona.

“Our organization began out of a recognition that many schools, synagogues, and churches could not get quality training due to the prices many companies charge, or the time constraints of public safety agencies,” says Lytle, who is a fire captain, paramedic, and the operations coordinator for the Green Valley Hazardous Materials Team. He’s also terrorism liaison officer with the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center, and an instructor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

ICSAVE volunteers are recruited from both law enforcement and fire agencies, Lytle says. The organization’s mission is “To protect our communities from preventable injury and death through education, training and empowerment.”

Lytle, who is Jewish, notes that ICSAVE has conducted trainings for the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation, Congregation Anshei Israel (where his wife, Debra, is executive director), Tanque Verde School District, the Catholic Diocese of Southern Arizona, Prescott Fire Department, Pima County JTED, Phoenix Fire Department, and Cochise County Sheriff’s Department, among others.

At Anshei Israel, ICSAVE taught the “Stop the Bleed” course on May 18. 

“Our attendees left feeling comfortable, empowered, and eager for more sessions. We’ve already worked on adding some of the techniques shown to us into our regular emergency drills,” Rabbi Robert Eisen and Debra Lytle said in a May 19 letter to ICSAVE. The letter notes that CAI members donated bleeding control kits, making the training possible, and that board and staff from several Jewish community organizations were able to join in the training.

The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona has donated additional bleeding control kits to CAI and other Jewish organizations that have participated in ICSAVE training, Lytle says.

Paul Patterson, the security consultant hired by the Federation to work with Jewish community organizations, attended the training at Anshei Israel.

ICSAVE, he notes, trains people for a worst-case scenario — both how to prepare for it and how to respond to it. While most people will never have to deal with a violent attack, daily news reports of terrorist events or discussions of gun control keep it on everyone’s minds. Along with the valuable information ICSAVE shares, he says, another benefit of its training “can be easing people’s minds. If people feel more prepared, they’re not as nervous.”

In addition, he says, ICSAVE’s training reinforces the “all hands on deck” approach he emphasizes in his work throughout the Jewish community.

“Hillel participated in active shooting training with ICSAVE in January of this year,” says Michelle Blumenberg, UA Hillel Foundation executive director. “We had 20 participants including all of our full-time and part-time staff, the café staff, and a few people from other Jewish community agencies. It was an incredibly informative day — the most important portion of the day was the various real world scenarios where we actively moved around our entire building. More than seeing a PowerPoint presentation (which can be valuable), this allowed us to actually think through where in our building would we be located, what doors would we hide behind, what furniture would we move, how would you actually take down a shooter, etc.

“We recommend that all of the agencies and synagogues should schedule a training for their folks in their facilities,” Blumenberg says.

Another course ICSAVE has been busy teaching around the state is public safety integration, which enables emergency medical personnel to respond more quickly in active shooter situations, Lytle says.

“We were seeing what was going on between police and fire was not effective. Basically the old way of doing things was law enforcement would respond to an active shooter situation and fire and EMS would be held off until the scene was completely secured,” he explains, noting that in the UA School of Nursing shooting in 2002, “fire and EMS was held off for 90 minutes.” The same thing happened in the 2012 shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, he says. “Law enforcement was screaming for medics to come in,” and since they weren’t permitted to do so, “law enforcement was just loading people in their patrol cars and taking them to the hospital.”

“We set out to change that,” he says, with the rescue task force, “where medics go in with law enforcement so they can immediately start to treat victims.” EMS units may be held off very briefly, he explains, as a battalion chief from the fire department and a sergeant or lieutenant from the police department form a unified command and activate a rescue task force.

“While law enforcement is hunting for the shooter,” he says, “we team up with law enforcement and start going into the parts of the building they’ve already been through, and start treating victims.”

It took 10 years to get the rescue task force system approved, says Lytle, but “now it’s the standard in Pima County and nationwide.”

Lytle, who was part of the first Firefighters Without Borders delegation from Southern Arizona to Israel in October 2013, says that trip confirmed that it is vital for firefighters/paramedics to get in fast when people are wounded in an attack.

“The Israelis don’t do a lot of holding off,” he says.

For information on ICSAVE courses, visit www.icsave.org.