NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Vanderbilt's University's Emergency Department acts as the front line any time a mass shooting happens in Nashville or nearby. In the last seven months, doctors have treated victims of three separate mass shootings including a shooting at an Antioch church, Kentucky school and Antioch Waffle House.
On Thursday, May 3, Dr. Corey Slovis, Chairman of Vanderbilt's Department of Emergency Medicine, prepared for a fourth.
"Three EMS physicians with the Nashville Fire Department responded to the scene," Slovis said, describing a Thursday shooting inside Opry Mills. "We were prepared for a large number of casualties, a triage system had been put in place and we had ten ambulances put in place ready to transport victims. Luckily they were not needed."
Police said that shooting was targeted. The gunman gave up his weapon after killing 22-year-old Demarco Churchwell.
But when Vanderbilt doctors are needed, they operate like a well oiled machine.
No matter if a patient is transported by helicopter or ambulance, a team of physicians gathers in a trauma bay, standing on marks on the floor that denote their job. They're briefed on the patient's condition and ready for any surprises that may come up.
"Unfortunately, we’ve become very well practiced," Dr. Slovis said. "We used to do a lot more drills and now because of how many traumas, potential mass casualty incidents and active shooter incidents we’ve had, we do this in a very systematic, organized way."
Each time a mass shooting call goes out, Vanderbilt initiates a yellow alert which means all hands on deck. The operating room prepares to receive patients that will go from the Emergency Department to surgery. The blood bank is alerted and on standby.
Inside the trauma bays, a high definition video camera records every response so doctors can re-watch and learn how to improve.
Dr. Slovis said when he first began practicing medicine mass casualty drills took place because they were required. Now, he said doctors practice for the inevitable.
"We did the practicing knowing we would probably never need it," he said. "Now when we practice, we know that it’s a roulette wheel and each city is at risk every time it spins."