AUSTIN (KXAN) — This is the big event season in Austin, with UT football, ACL and the COTA races coming up. All huge crowds, vulnerable in case of a mass attack. UMC Brackenridge is the only adult level-one trauma center in the area, and Seton has put together a specially trained team there of trauma experts to prepare for the worst.
After Charles Whitman shot 45 people from the UT Tower back in 1966, local doctors began thinking about the need for a mass casualty response. In this era of terror, it is needed more than ever. What many of us consider the “unimaginable”, these first responders must imagine such a thing and be prepared. Dr. Jayson Aydelotte is an army vet and now trauma surgeon at Brackenridge who heads an eight surgeon team, half of them with military training. He says that is a rare benefit when it comes to planning for mass death. “Seeing mass casualty events is really rare here, but over there you might see fifty of them. Most people will never see one.”
Dr. Aydelotte adds that while most city hospitals can handle a trauma with thirty or forty patients, a thousand or more is entirely different. “It changes the way you organize what you are going to do. For instance, our entire hospital, our entire hospital system, will do nothing else but care for the injured.” Other, ordinary patients who can be moved would be transferred to other area hospitals to make room.
DKR Memorial Stadium can be jammed with 100,000 people on game day, a ripe target that could become a triage site in a blinding instant. Same with the Circuit of the Americas, 100,000 come out for an F-1 race. Dr. John Sabra, a navy veteran now part of the Brackenridge team, heads up planning for an emergency at COTA. He says, “Not to say nothing phases us but there’s not a lot we haven’t seen overseas. We’re working closely with Austin-Travis County EMS and the plan is to establish a scene at the site of the mass casualties and from there begin evacuating victims.” He also points out that there are six helipads at COTA that could help with the evacuations.
Dr. Aydelotte prepared a study in 2012 for the American Journal of Surgery and he found half of the responding American city hospitals were not prepared for a mass casualty attack. He doesn’t believe that’s the case here, “People should rest assured that Austin is prepared, and we’re getting more prepared every day.”