Paris, Friday 13 November 2015. It is 9.30 pm when the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris is alerted to the explosions just occurred at the stadium, the Stade de France, just outside Paris. Time twenty minutes, and news of gunfire and explosions arrives in four other points of the capital. It soon becomes clear that the wounded will be many, and the activation of a special plan to manage emergency situations is decided.
To tell how it went that night, and what it meant to manage from a health point of view what was in effect a medical medicine application in a civil setting (in proportions that Paris had not experienced since the Second World War ), is a group of doctors, in a report on Lancet, full of technical details but also of particular "human".
Get ready. Conceived twenty years ago and never put into practice, the plan allows the medical personnel to be called up immediately, to free beds in hospitals and to manage the emergency according to precise procedures. If things worked, it was also because, after the attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, in January of this year, it was known that it could have happened again, and on a larger scale, and we were getting ready.
In total, 302 were injured in the night between Friday and Saturday, of which four (one percent) did not (while 129 people died during the terrorist actions). Ironically, as the doctors tell us, on the Friday morning of the attack there had been an exercise of the emergency medical teams and the fire brigade. When they were recalled the same evening, many thought it was another simulation.
Plan. At the start of the emergency, a support center was immediately set up with 35 psychiatrists, who along with psychologists, nurses and volunteers gathered at the Hôtel Dieu, the oldest and most central hospital in Paris.
On the sites of the attacks, 45 mobile rescue units were immediately sent, able to provide first aid and send the injured to the right hospital, so as to avoid chaos and overcrowding in hospital emergency departments; 15 teams were held in reserve in the event of further terrorist actions.
Many of the wounds were from firearms, and 256 people were immediately transported to hospitals. Several of the rescuers - the article reports - went back without the belts, used to block bleeding since the tourniquets were fake, a detail that gives a good idea.
In the middle of the night 35 surgical teams had operated on the most serious people. 24 hours later - the authors of the article observe - "they were almost ready to face another attack that was feared could happen".