ESCONDIDO — Four tactical officers lay on the ground outside of Palomar College’s Escondido Center, bleeding heavily from apparent gunshot wounds.
Four fellow officers rushed to their aid, tourniquets and other lifesaving equipment in hand, deftly dressing wounds and stopping the blood flowing from their injuries.
“It can make you a little squeamish,” said Daniel Sourbeer, an interim vice president at the college.
The bloody scene looked like something out of a movie or a terrorist attack, but it was actually a demonstration of Palomar College’s newest emergency medical education training tool, the Human Worn Partial Task Tactical Combat Casualty Care Simulator — or the “cut suit” for short.
Palomar College students as well as training officials with the suit’s manufacturer performed the demonstration during a Tuesday morning news conference announcing the college’s partnership with the county for the purchase of one of the suits, made possible through a $71,000 grant from the County Board of Supervisors.
“The whole goal is to provide resources and tools necessary to make this the best for all,” County Supervisor Dave Roberts said about the award. “The county considers this an investment in public safety and emergency care for the entire region. This is important work.”
The cut suit is made of material that has the look and feel of human skin and internal organs. An actor puts the suit on over his body, and it “bleeds” a substance that looks like blood when it is punctured.
Students and first responders who train with the cut suit get to simulate the injuries they might respond to during a high-risk incident, such as an active shooter on campus, a hostage situation, a bombing or a terrorist attack, when they have to stop the bleeding or dress the wounds of injured victims.
“In order to provide the training we do, it has to be hyper realistic and as close to the real thing as possible,” said Pete Ordille, a faculty member of the college’s Emergency Medical Education program. “This helps students deal with the stresses of working in high-stress areas.”
The County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the grant, which was proposed by Dist. 5 Supervisor Bill Horn and Roberts.
Palomar College’s Emergency Medical Education program is one of a handful of institution’s statewide to offer a tactical combat casualty care course, which the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians developed in 2013 in response to the rise of violent incidents on school campuses and other areas.
In addition to students, the course is available to law enforcement and first responders throughout the region and state, Ordille said.
The suit, which was developed and manufactured by San Diego-based Strategic Operations, will be available for all agencies that want to train with it, Ordille added.
Students involved with Tuesday’s demonstration said the suit will give them the confidence needed to perform lifesaving tasks in the face of violence and bloody incidents.
“The more we are able to see these real-life scenarios, the more comfortable we can be in that environment,” said TJ Grisafi, a 22-year-old emergency medical education student who suffered faux gunshot wounds to the thigh and arm during the demonstration. “It helps me get past the mental block of the outward signs and get down and dirty and get to the treatment as fast as I can.”