National standardized mass casualty triage guidelines recommended by federal agency

June 6, 2014

A new guideline for triaging mass casualty victims has been recommended by a federal emergency medical services agency for use by all state and local EMS groups.

The Federal Interagency Committee on Emergency Medical Services has recommended that state and local EMS agencies improve their mass casualty triage capabilities by adopting the new guideline and released an implementation plan for meeting that recommendation nationally.

The guideline, dubbed the Model Uniform Core Criteria, or MUCC, identifies the key features that should be included in a mass casualty triage system and is designed to standardize the process and improve interoperability between agencies when they respond to an emergency with multiple casualties. One of the guideline’s key recommendations is to quickly identify those with life-threatening injuries and provide immediate lifesaving interventions, such as placing a tourniquet to stop a victim from bleeding to death.

“Having a national standard for mass casualty triage means that all responders in these chaotic and rapidly-changing situations will be operating from the same sheet of music. This will help to ensure that as many lives as possible are saved,” said E. Brooke Lerner, Ph.D., professor of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and deputy director of MCW’s Injury Research Center.

“Based on the lessons learned from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, the MUCC ensures that critical patients with potential for survival get immediate help by incorporating quick lifesaving interventions, such as a tourniquet or opening their airway. The lifesaving interventions are integrated directly into the triage protocol,” said Dr. Richard Schwartz, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine and Hospitalist Services at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University in Augusta.

Dr. Schwartz was principal investigator on the grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that enabled broad-scale assessment of existing military and civilian triage protocols. Dr. Lerner led the 30-member multidisciplinary working group representing federal and academic institutions that developed the MUCC guideline.

“Most triage protocols used in the United States today do not include lifesaving interventions,” Schwartz said. “This guideline will ensure that all responders to a mass casualty incident are providing lifesaving interventions that only take seconds to do then quickly moving to the next victim,” Schwartz said.

The Federal Interagency Committee on Emergency Medical represents the Department of Transportation, Department of Defense, Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Communication Commission. The committee has indicated federal dollars may be available to help implement the protocols across the nation.

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