Home Emergency Management News Logistical Concerns Surrounding an Overdose Mass Casualty Incident

Logistical Concerns Surrounding an Overdose Mass Casualty Incident

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

The opioid epidemic has gained national attention as it has become clear that the United States has a serious problem with overdoses.  At the local level of analysis, there are serious security and emergency management concerns for the resources needed to effectively manage overdose cases. More importantly, overdose cases can create numerous logistical problems when there are multiple overdose cases around the same time in different locations.

Recently, New Haven, Connecticut dealt with a rather serious issue when there were suddenly 76 overdose cases in the same public park within a short period of time.  According to one article, K2 (a type of synthetic marijuana) was at the core of New Haven overdoses - presenting numerous challenges to emergency medical services. An article by the New Haven Independent explained that “officials theorized that the overdoses stemmed from a batch of synthetic marijuana known as K2 laced with fentanyl.” The article continues to explain, “initial testing of a sample by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency revealed only the K2 without additives.”

Logistical Concerns and Naxolone

Considering that overdoses are serious and require medical intervention, the logistics involved with pre-hospital care for a mass-casualty incident are daunting.  According to Gulec et al., (2018) “The National EMS Scope of Practice Model currently only recommends advanced life support (ALS) providers to administer naloxone; however some individual states have expanded this scope of practice to include intranasal (IN) administration of naloxone by basic life support (BLS) providers.”

In Connecticut, emergency medical responders, advanced emergency medical technicians and paramedics can give naloxone to patients suffering from an opioid related overdose. This alone helps with the logistics of managing so many patients because multiple EMS crews (from any jurisdiction) can administer naxolone - which reverses the effects of K2.

Mutual Aid Agreements

Managing a large influx of patients, like the K2 consumers in Connecticut, undoubtedly strains a city's resources. In short, there may not be enough ambulances to help manage such a situation. In cases like these, mutual aid agreements are essential and critical to scene management.  Mutual Aid Agreements are agreements between jurisdictions to allow for each one to help each other when they are overwhelmed and need more resources. At the local level, this is particularly important for handling such a serious emergency. According to an article by the New Haven Independent it isn’t clear if mutual aid agreements in this sense were used in the K2 overdose case – but, it is clear that those managing the scene managed it quite well - given the mass casualty incident they were dealt with the resources they had.

Mass casualty incidents are complicated to manage and require numerous resources to effectively manage and control the situation.  This article only discussed a couple of ways to manage a sudden influx of overdose patients, there are many other factors to consider when managing such an event. Ultimately, the City of New Haven was faced with a mass casualty incident and handled it very well despite the circumstances.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four Master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, History, a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She is also trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard and a Lifeguard Instructor. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and also serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.