WON Landing Page March 2022

3 Things to Know Before an Emergency at the Range

We welcome with open arms Sara Ahrens back onboard as a columnist at The WON! We are delighted to bring back “OffBeat,” her column that describes her life off the beat as a patrol officer. Now that she’s retired, Sara will be able to devote time to engaging us in her well-planned and executed columns, sponsored by Crossbreed Holsters. In this launch of the column under this sponsorship, Sara tells us 3 things we must know before an emergency happens on our range. ~ The Editors


Sara Ahrens’ OffBeat is sponsored by Crossbreed Holsters

A fun day at the shooting range can quickly turn into a life-or-death emergency. If it does, how much you know and prepare can directly impact the outcome. The worst time to consider what you should know during an emergency… is during the emergency. Here are 3 things you should know in order to handle a medical emergency at your range.

Sara at the range_1

(Michael Ahrens photo)

#1 – Where is the Phone and What’s the Address?

Summoning help from first responders should be at the top of your list when a medical emergency occurs at the range. Knowing the location of the range phone or a cell phone is just the first step. Equally important, is knowing in advance how to dial out on the range phone and determining if your cell phone even gets service.

In a perfect world when you call 911 for an emergency, the dispatcher will know where you are calling from and have that address available on their computer terminal. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and many communities do not have the most up-to-date dispatching systems. If someone calls from a landline phone from the range, it is more probable than not, that 911 will have the range information available. However, if the number has recently changed, 911 has never been called, or someone calls from their cell phone, it’s more likely that they will not know your location.

At best with a cellphone, many dispatch systems can get first responders “near” the location of the caller. Close isn’t going to cut it when time is of the essence. To ensure the best response time, make sure your range posts its address; or better yet, memorize it yourself! Under pressure, people are hard pressed to come up with needed information. 



Sara Ahrens at Gunsite Academy, a well-run, safe range. (Barbara Baird photo)

#2 – What is Your Range’s Policy on Providing Information to 911?

I have never been a member of a range that advises its members not to tell 911 that someone has been shot, if in fact they have been. I have heard that such policies exist. First of all, let me emphasize the importance of providing as much information as possible to 911. First responders are dispatched to 911 calls based on a system of prioritization. If you simply state you have a “medical emergency,” but you fail to provide details, you may be endangering the lives and subjecting yourself to criminal charges. Failing to provide information delays response and prevents dispatchers from sending the right emergency equipment. Likewise, emergency responders need to know immediately if the “medical emergency” can be handled locally or if arrangements need to be made to transport to more advanced treatment centers. Not divulging the details delays the process of coordinating care. It should be noted that when giving details to 911, it is important to explain that the shooting was accidental, if in fact it was because the response for an active shooter is quite different than that of an accidental shooting. It should be noted that it is illegal to provide false information in order to gain a faster response.

first aid kit#3 – Where is the Emergency Medical Equipment at Your Range?

Depending on the location of the range in respect to the emergency responders, you may be the first responder. Knowing the location of first aid kits, the contents and its condition is critical.

When I took over as Range Master in my agency, someone requested a bandage for a small cut. I opened the first aid kit, which had been mounted to the wall for decades and was shocked by my discovery. The packaging on all bandages had yellowed and it was impossible to remove the plastic backing from the adhesive strip, which in retrospect, was probably for the best. There were items in that kit that had been outlawed by the FDA.

Had a real emergency occurred, using that kit would’ve only made things worse. I immediately replaced the kit with one that contained items likely to be needed in an emergency on a range. This included an AED (Automated External Defibrillator).

We go to the range to train and have fun but sometimes, bad things happen. If something bad were to happen while you are at the range, do you know where the phone is, what to say, where you are? If you have to be the first responder, do you know if, where, and in what condition the first aid kit is? If not, you should figure it out before you uncase your firearm.



The Conversation

  • Sara Ahrens says: July 13, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I meant all the agencies… Should type in my cell phone lol

  • Sara Ahrens says: July 8, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    It’s exactly like the hospital… Heart attacks have priority over nose bleeds

  • Paul says: July 7, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    #3 – Where is the Emergency Medical Equipment at Your Range?

    Not only where the first aid kit is located or how old it is but members of your shooting team/squad are full trained on how to use the first aid kit, shock and blood loss can kill within minutes

  • Richard Miller says: July 7, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Glad I saw this. I had not thought of any of these issues. Passed it on to our Range Director.

  • Jimmie says: July 7, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    EMS 911 Calls are not prioritized based off the info given over the phone they are dispatched in the order they come in.

    If there were dispatched off of info given and then prioritized them people would lie to make sure the got the first unit out the door.

    Always tell the dispatcher as much info as you have. If you are in a rural area that would that creates extended response times due to location, it is ok to request that a helicopter be dispatched. It is a good idea to have a pre determined landing zone picked out and have the GPS cordinates for it on a sign.

    • Sara Ahrens says: July 8, 2015 at 4:46 pm

      Jimmie, I regret to inform you that you are wrong. People do lie… that’s why every state has a law called (more or less) misuse of 911! I have 17 years in LE and a sister that runs Rock County Wisconsin’s 911 center. I don’t know where you are from but if that’s how your 911 center operates they will be sued! This isn’t McDonalds first come first served this is prioritizing emergency response so those most in need get service first. Anyone who knowingly lies in my county… Goes directly to jail… All the time.

    • Eric says: July 11, 2015 at 6:06 am

      Sara is exactly right.

      I’ve been worked LE at local and federal levels and even the private sector and we dispatch based on priority. When I’ve worked as a dispatcher I’ve even used my authority to redirect responding first responders as new information came into the dispatch center. We always dispatch on the information not when it came in.
      That’s why you hear larger agencies assign “codes” (i.e. Code three) to a call. So responders know not only how to respond but where it falls in their priority tree.
      Listen to a big city from an online scanner and you’ll get the idea. A large city like Cleveland has officers start their tours with lower priority calls that have been holding until things calm down.

      • Sara Ahrens says: July 13, 2015 at 4:03 pm

        Eric, that’s exactly how alltheagencues in my area work too. As a patrol supervisor looking over calls in cue sometimes you’d notice misprioritzed calls… Like a home invasion coded a burglary that was left pending! Yikes. We’ve been fortunate none our mistakes endangered anyone but I’m sure it’s shaken the faith those citizens had in a timely response by LE!