Christchurch mosque attacks: International expert rates emergency response as '9 out of 10'

An international mass casualty expert has described the actions of emergency services on March 15 as a nine out of 10 response.  

But he told the coronial inquest that if Police and St John policies were followed - it may have been as low as five out of 10.  

In 2007, Mississippi's Minneapolis bridge collapsed and within 81 minutes emergency services triaged and transported 145 patients. 

One of those involved in the rescue operation was John Hick. 

Hick has dealt with mass casualty responses over several decades and has now analysed March 15 - an attack he calls highly unusual.  

"Internationally, dedicated multisite attacks involving active assaults are incredibly rare," he said. 

He said emotion and empathy don't have a place in responding to an event like March 15.  

"A response executed with a minimum of emotion is a success not a failure. But it does not mean that deep grief, compassion and frustration are not experienced by the responders," he said. 

He recalled his own work on the Mississippi bridge collapse.  

"Being consumed with executing and problem solving for a full eight hours until there was nothing left to do and then going home and breaking down crying watching the images on television." 

After analysing the March 15 response, he gave the coroner recommendations.

Recommendations included:

  • Automatic ambulance dispatch  
  • 'Stop the bleed' kits  
  • Safe codes  
  • Update mass casualty policies  
  • Update mass casualty plans.  
  • Joint training and exercising   

Like all experts in this inquest, Hick praised the actions of all first responders on the day and the quick decisions they made - often breaking policies and protocol to save lives.  

"Like any gymnast, we got a nine on this but it would be nice to get a 10 next time," he said. 

It's a next time no first responder wants to see but must be prepared for.