Edit 15:50 Pacific / 23:50 UTC: Comments seem to be tapering off, so I think I'm going to go get some work done. Thanks for a fun 6 hours! As a shameless self-plug, if you're interested in online privacy, consider checking out the Indiegogo campaign I'm running for an end-to-end-encrypted email service. Have a good one!

Hi Reddit, my name is Nick Badger. I was an EMT for a few years in college, both through my university and through a private ambulance company. I was the quality assurance director for the campus EMS group for a year or two as well, so I can speak reasonably lucidly about the kinds of medical things that tend to go wrong at university. I was also certified as a firefighter, but got my certs at the same time I was starting grad school, so I never had a chance to work as one. Along the way, I did, however, get the opportunity to play a victim, a responder, and the active shooter / bomber at several different "mass casualty incident" (MCI) simulations. These aren't strictly terrorist attacks (that's a philosophical/legal classification we never ascribed them), but that seemed like a more concise description.

Since then I've...

  1. Abandoned my master's thesis in mechanical engineering just before finishing my degree
  2. Hopped on my motorcycle and took a roundabout way from Cleveland to California
  3. Worked as a MechE for two years for a small company making climatology research equipment
  4. Quit that gig and am now working on a no-bullshit private/encrypted email service called Ethyr.

AMA -- needn't be about EMS / MCI / etc.

Pics or it didn't happen:

Comments: 614 • Responses: 46  • Date: 

mrockey19463 karma

If a regular citizen like myself were to find myself in a MCI what should I do to make the emergency staffs job easier?

fatterSurfer433 karma

Good question, but unfortunately hard to answer. Some general advice I guess:

  • Listen to directions and act as calmly as you can.
  • Remember that they're people too.
  • If you're injured, don't underplay or overplay what's wrong with you (this can be hard).
  • For that matter, in healthcare in general, just be honest. We're not (supposed to be, not every egg basket is fresh) in the business of judging you. I got into healthcare because I wanted to make a difference in peoples' lives, not just their pulse or breathing. You don't do that kind of stuff if you're going to be a dick about whatever moderately embarrassing but we've probably seen worse thing is happening to you.
  • If you're a bystander, unless someone explicitly asks for help, it's probably better to err on the side of keeping out of the way -- or, better yet, go track down some water bottles or snacks and offer them to command staff to give out.

wh1036237 karma

If you're injured, don't underplay or overplay what's wrong with you (this can be hard).

When I was a teenager I took part in an disaster (massive car accident) drill for our town's emergency responders. I had been coached on what my injuries were supposed to be and a makeup artist gored me up. The fire dept used jaws of life to cut the door off of the car, then I was placed on a stretcher and an ambulance took me to the emergency room. While all this was going on there was an air evac, someone getting put in a body bag, and multiple other "victims" being attended to. Even though it was all a simulation, the shock of everything happening around me got my adrenaline going and I was panicking and hardly able to put words together when I was telling the nurse my symptoms. I imagine in a real situation it would be very hard to calmly and accurately explain my injuries.

fatterSurfer203 karma

Yeah, "this can be hard" is a bit of an understatement" on my part

Thorbinator74 karma

If you're a bystander, unless someone explicitly asks for help, it's probably better to err on the side of keeping out of the way

Isn't the bystander effect deadly, like when not calling 911 to get EMS on scene? When should we ignore that impulse and help anyway?

fatterSurfer99 karma

It certainly can be, but that's very different than when responders are already there. If it's just happened, yes, absolutely, if nothing else, 100% call for help. But once they're there, understand that they're the ones in command.

But again, they're human. That doesn't mean their decisions will be perfect. But do understand that the uncomfortable truth of the situation is that, even if they make (from your perspective) poor decisions, (disclaimer: generally decisions are good, I'm not saying otherwise), but even if you disagree, the situation will progress more smoothly if you keep your disagreement to yourself and listen to what they say. Coordination is key.

It sucks and it's really frustrating, but think of it like arguing with family/SO/spouse/etc. Sometimes you have to value the relationship more than your ego.

Sorry for the disorganized response, kinda complicated topic to talk about.

clairdelynn24 karma

In response to your first bullet - at what point into an emergency event, e.g., being locked in a metro train filling with smoke, do you stop listening to instructions and self-evacuate? There was an incident in DC last year, where the passengers were in that very situation and were told to remain calm and not leave the car (went on for 45 min before first responders arrived) and a woman died because of it, with numerous others sent to the hospital.

fatterSurfer24 karma

Something to understand, I guess about life in general, but especially stuff like this, is that there are no hard and fast rules. Everything is a judgement call.

I can say that if I personally am in the situation you're describing (I'm unfamiliar with it TBH though), and someone is in obvious distress, if I'm seriously concerned for that person's well-being I will at least start to think about self evac. But, I still might be doing more harm than good. Hard to say, make the best decision you possibly can given the information you have at hand.

Word to the wise though: that last sentence is the hardest part, and everyone sucks at it.

Bonsai2745268 karma

We (EMS) call in MCIs via a METHANE mneomonic. Taking an extra 30 seconds to assess the situation and give quality information before you call 999/112/911 is probably beneficial.

Without delaying making the call too much, and without putting yourself at risk then as much of this information as possible is helpful:

M - Major incident declared / Major incident standby - you can't declare a major incident as a member of the public, but signposting right away to the calltaker that you're calling from a large mass casualty incident is important.

E - Exact location - as specific as possible.

T - Type of incident - briefly what has happened - road accident? Gas explosion?

H - Hazards - is stuff still on fire? A chemical truck leaking stuff? A bridge that looks unstable?

A - Access/Egress - again not too much detail is needed, but good to mention if specific access routes are blocked.

N - Number of casualties - if it's huge don't count them all up, an approximate number is possible. I'm not going to teach you to triage but if possible break that down roughly into about to die / not mobile but otherwise seem okay / walking wounded.

E - Emergency resources - anything currently on the scene, and for the professionals what additional resources are required.

So all together that could sound (from a member of the public) something like this: "I'm calling from a multi-vehicle collision on the M1 northbound around 1 mile north of J21. A lorry has collided with a car and overturned, and multiple cars have then collided with the debris. One of the cars is smoking badly. The northbound carriageway is completely blocked, the southbound has slow moving traffic, but no debris. A couple of people seem to be unconcious in their cars, 4-5 are awake and talking but not able to get out, there's then another 7-10 people out of their vehicles at the side of the road who seem to have cuts and scrapes. Another driver knows first aid and is looking at one of the sicker casualties, but there's no emergency services here yet"

In an ideal world get someone to make an initial call so they get some resources rolling while you take a minute or two to survey the scene and call with more detail. Do not put yourself at risk to do this. If you don't know something be honest - approximations are fine (but be clear when you are approximating vs know for sure).

Edit: Some spelling errors

fatterSurfer106 karma

This is very, very, very good advice (that I've never heard before!)

AudiMartin_LP599_GT157 karma

Hey Nick,

For these simulations, did they gave you a script? Or did they just gave you the role of the victim and then you had to act accordingly?

fatterSurfer286 karma

In my experience:

  • As a victim, you're explained your injuries, and what symptoms to present when the responders show up. This is really very important. Beyond that, you don't get much of a script. Although there are occasionally exceptions to that, such as "we want you to act belligerent enough that a LEO needs to restrain you" or "about ten minutes in (when LEOs were staging for entry), run/limp your way outside and collapse.
  • As a responder, you know (ideally) literally nothing except that it's a drill, which radio channels are reserved for the drill, etc. Dispatch is sometimes in on it to help facilitate.
  • As the perp, I had a handler and a general loose flow of events to follow, but otherwise was on my own. So, for example, the 90+ minutes I spent on the phone with a regional FBI hostage negotiator was all me, as was me "negotiating" for lunch when the drill ran over time because we held for a real call.

aryst0krat106 karma

I got to be a victim and rescuer during my confined spaces training and it was so much fun. For the victims, we were all oxygen deprived or unconscious so it was mostly just being a corpse, but some of us got instructions for different symptoms of oxygen deprivation like giddiness or just being uncooperative. One group I went in to rescue was sitting crosslegged playing pattycake.

fatterSurfer78 karma

Serious situations don't have to be solemn (sorry, can't find the time code, but it's a good talk regardless). When I was perp, I had three hostages, and off-mic we were having a great time. In some ways it was a little jarring actually, we were bouncing back and forth between in character and laughing because someone's pants just came down when being dragged out of the room.

aryst0krat35 karma

Yeah in our case it was a stark contrast between laughing at the victims flopping around and having a time limit to get them out before serious brain damage or death would be kicking in. Carting bodies around with full SCBA gear on was frustrating enough without their lives actually being at stake.

fatterSurfer38 karma

Carting bodies around with full SCBA gear on was frustrating enough without their lives actually being at stake.

Yawp. Good training though. Aaand, I'd take it over the wire box (aka collapse escape, aka "a tunnel of panic attack" for a lot of guys, aka this, if you're lucky, though usually they're much smaller tunnels) any day though.

Karthe11 karma

I had heard our guys doing some manner of training on the radio over several days, and decided to take some time on my day off to go and watch them.

They were doing firefighter down extracation drills with a dummy. that involved navigating through a simulated wall frame, over an A-frame made of pallets, then through a tunnel made from welding three fifty gallon drums together. At the end, they had to recover the down firefighter (a dummy in full SCBA) and pull him all the way back through....The entire time with their masks blacked out with cloth to simulate smoke. They had to follow the hose line, feel for the obstacles, and on several occasions, remove their tanks and such just to fit through the holes. It was intense.

fatterSurfer9 karma

Intense training = best training, generally speaking, from my experience.

Octosphere35 karma

So, did you get that lunch?

fatterSurfer67 karma

Hell yeah! Didn't get the pizza I asked for (seemed like the most generic option) but that's only because I didn't know what had been ordered. Sandwiches, as it turns out.

Cinnemon28 karma

I was part of one of these once. We also simulated that an attack happened on our dispatch center, and that suddenly we were without dispatchers. That made for some interesting training.

fatterSurfer36 karma

and that suddenly we were without dispatchers.

Ohhh man I can only imagine. Serious love for dispatch here, which goes pretty massively underappreciated.

RotaryJihad144 karma

As a bad guy, did you ever test your ability to complete your tasks in the face of aggressive resistance from your victims?

In other words did you find "run, hide, fight" to be an effective strategy at deterring your efforts as the bad guy?

fatterSurfer203 karma

No, that kind of stuff was way outside the scope of the simulation. The point of the simulations isn't to see what happens, it's to train response personnel.

I'd be personally interested in an open-ended scenario where it's less scripted and I had more room to adapt to what the responders were doing, however this is an absolute nightmare to coordinate and requires incredible, phenomenal trust in the perp. In that case the bad guy essentially becomes the event coordinator, on the fly. It would make for a much better training experience, and put much more realistic pressure on the responders, but the requirements on the facilitators and volunteers is just next level.

As it was, we were already incorporating a fake social media aspect to the whole thing (as in, we had fake social networks and had university PR, legal, LEO, press, etc all interacting with me, sometimes while I was on the phone with the FBI. At that point in the scenario I was holed up in a closed with 3 hostages, though, so I was pretty static and had enough mental headway to maintain those 2 conversations at once.

Emmia68 karma

Was this the real or simulated FBI?

fatterSurfer126 karma

Real FBI

flamed_curtains81 karma

What do your parents think of your involvement with simulated terrorist attacks?

fatterSurfer115 karma

To be honest I never really talked to them that much about EMS/Fire stuff. They came out for my fire academy graduation though, which was a not-quite-7-hour drive, and I know they were proud of me.

Something to understand though is that we do these drills to help prepare responders for the real thing. So even though they're (from my perspective, in any role) a great deal of fun, they're also something you take very seriously. So for me personally, on a psychological level it all just gets folded into particularly "training memories" and I don't really think of it as that big of a deal.

CodexAcc72 karma

Did you grow the beard for the bad guy role?

fatterSurfer222 karma

Heh. No, like most beards, it started out of laziness and eventually started to grow on me.

CodexAcc112 karma


fatterSurfer274 karma

Hi Literally, I'm Dad.

charlieatron54 karma

What kind of guns do they use for the simulations? Is it airsoft, paintball, etc?

Chachbag72 karma

Not OP but have been in mass casualties simulations in the Air Force. The guns in the image appear to be just fake guns with no ammo. When we do use sim rounds for training (clearing rooms and extracting hostages) we use modified weapons that fire something like this http://simunition.com/en/products/fx_marking_cartridges. They hurt like a mother fucker and instantly bruise. One pale kid had about a 6 inch diameter bruise from one 9mm sim round shot to the shoulder.

fatterSurfer90 karma

I can only speak for my experiences, but:

  • I had unloaded airsoft when I was perp.
  • My understanding by the safety officer beforehand was that the officers were using their actual real sidearms, but that may have been a misunderstanding on my part. The orange tape was to denote they had been inspected, cleared, cleared again, inspected again, and (I think maybe) chamber obstructed. I distinctly remember him saying "if you see a weapon without orange tape besides the three airsoft you have, get the fuck down and call for a facilitator."
  • At the (partially outdoor) flight nursing simulation, the officers were carrying live airsoft, and actually did a simulated approach-to-entry with actual simulated opfor. That was pretty carefully coordinated, and most people were inside and out of the line of fire.

Nictionary46 karma

I'm a mech eng (student, almost done) too. Why did you give up on your master's thesis? What was the topic going to be?

fatterSurfer79 karma

The short answer is, I got fed up with the bullshit.

The long answer is, originally I didn't. I'd been planning my motorcycle road trip for a really long time, and when I got a call for an on-site job interview, I thought I'd already be done and on the road by mid-July, so I decided to fly out of my halfway point and leave my bike with family. No plan survives contact with the enemy and all that, so I just made sure to gather all the data I needed to write and defend (everything was physically done) by the last day I could leave Cleveland and comfortably make it to my flight in Minneapolis in time.

Once I got to California, got the job, etc, and took some time to think about it, I decided it wasn't worth it. I'd already gotten everything I was expecting to get out of grad school experience-wise, and I'd already defended larger, more important projects than my thesis, to much more important audiences (ex: a project that only sorta worked, to the CTO of a multibillion, multinational corp). School wanted more money, more time, etc, and all I was going to get was a piece of paper. I'm not big on status symbols, so I decided we should go our separate ways.

The project itself was an infinitely variable electric transmission for robotics use.

Best of luck in your studies!

Martha_is_a_slut22 karma

I don't fully understand this. I'm currently working on my masters and couldn't imagine giving up especially when I was so close to finishing. If I invested all the time and money already I couldn't justify up and leaving it. To each his own and all that.

bennis4456528 karma

I think OP's perspective is that they'd learned what they wanted to learn, and didn't feel like paying the last bit of time/effort/money to get the piece of paper to prove they had the experience.

fatterSurfer33 karma

Exactly. Cost/benefit analysis. I happen to be (usually) pretty good about avoiding the sunk cost fallacy, so the math looked like:

  • Plus piece of paper
  • Minus a huge opportunity cost

It was a tough decision that I though a lot about though, especially since I was leaving school with a grand total of $65000 in loans. Which is a pittance compared to some of my friends. Which is fucking scary, by the way -- student loan debt is the second largest consumer debt in the country, only beat by mortgages. It's well over a trillion dollars -- I think around a trillion and a half. Absurd.

ramzafl13 karma

Wouldn't having the master's degree help your salary in the short AND long term though? Or is that completely irrelevant in your field?

fatterSurfer15 karma

I already had a job, and I knew I wouldn't get a raise. I was already planning on starting my own company at that point, though at the time I was planning on fixing CAD instead of fixing the internet. Actually, I made a mostly-functioning Solidworks plugin for git merging. But that's a bit of a different story. Point is, I'm (still) 87% sure iit wasn't going to be very important, which is about as convinced as I am of anything these days.

h-jay2 karma

I made a mostly-functioning Solidworks plugin for git merging.

I would pay for that shit. Would you ever consider finishing it? I'd port it to subversion, as we use that with Solidworks, but still - it'd be great to have that.

fatterSurfer5 karma

Would you ever consider finishing it?

Absolutely; it's in my long-term plan. I talk about it a little bit in this 36-minute interview Jeff Barr of Amazon did of me, if you have a lot of time to kill. The tl;dr as to why I'm doing internet privacy now instead is I think it's a more fundamental, and more meaningful issue, and the timing is better. The MechE world isn't exactly moving forwards at the same pace as the internet! I figure it'll still be in roughly the same shape 5 years down the road, though the push for a better CAD product intended for the sub-$150 software market and geared towards 3D printing may make that judgement a little hasty. I've thought a lot about that too!

I'd port it to subversion

You wouldn't need to, actually. It converts the entire history tree into a text-based format, basically YAML which is similar to XML, and then uses that for the merges, and then rebuilds the file, assemblies, etc from that. Basically the idea is to fully capture the part design, but not the computational representation of the geometry, within a mergeable format.

That also means you get substantially better compatibility between different CAD packages, between version years, etc.

All of that would be a really big deal, and I know that, which says a lot about how important I think data privacy and autonomy is, I suppose.

Martha_is_a_slut4 karma

Yeah, I'm trying to see it from OPs perspective but don't get the rationale. If it's just a small bit why stop?

bennis445658 karma

Being the last bit doesn't necessarily mean it was a small bit.

fatterSurfer9 karma

Martha_is_a_slut5 karma

Thanks for responding. I wasn't trying to be negative just genuinely curious.

fatterSurfer5 karma

No worries, different people evaluate things differently and it's perfectly healthy.

HereForFreeStuff37 karma

This sounds stupid, but, if someone actually got injured in the process of doing one of these simulations is there like a safe word or something, so people don't just think they're acting injured?

Is injury uncommon/common, have you ever experienced a simulation where someone is genuinely injured? What was done about it?

fatterSurfer39 karma

Not exactly a safe word, but we did have procedures in place for that, yes. It occasionally happens, most commonly stuff like hyperventilation. IIRC that happened on one of the simulations I was involved in, but I was elsewhere.

charmlessman120 karma

What have TV and the movies got wrong about terrorist attacks and how people respond to them?

fatterSurfer32 karma

I've never personally lived through any of them, so I can't really give you a solid answer, but from what I've heard, the succint answer to what they get wrong is: most things.

sporkemon20 karma

How did the people in charge decide who would play terrorist, first responder, victim, etc in each scenario? Which one was your favorite to play?

fatterSurfer33 karma

Typically we'd put out a call for volunteers for victims; they could be anyone. If you're interested, local "Community emergency response team" (CERT, ERT, etc, there are a lot of acronyms for it) might be a good point of contact.

Responders were totally a function of whoever was organizing the event, and then each involved department worked it out on their own. For the internal selection process I can only speak to campus EMS, which should not be indicative of anyone else at all, but that was basically "if you're going to be around for this and are interested in responding, sign up here" and then the command staff decided who would be most appropriate for whichever roles were available.

I was offered the role of the bad guy because I was personally good friends with, and had worked with, the guy who was coordinating it. In that case it was 100% a combination of "who you know" and "being highly trusted by who you know".

My favorite was being the bad guy, because it was the most rewarding by far. I got a lot of compliments from people I have a great deal of respect for, and shooting the shit with some of the guys afterwards was really nice. It was, by a massive margin, the biggest difference I made in the world through any of the drills.

imaginarymindscapes16 karma

Considering there have been reports of terror drills in universities going horribly wrong sometimes, what's your take on the matter when someone says that they're not good or that there are better ways of educating about what to do in the event of terror attacks?



fatterSurfer38 karma

Like most things in life, it's not the idea that's good or bad, but the way you execute it.

Under no circumstances should the drill be a surprise to anyone involved. Period. Everyone involved should either be present as a consensual volunteer, or as a part of their job.

ArchDucky9 karma

Do they really use those bad ass paintball handguns like in the movies?

fatterSurfer10 karma

Not in any of the drills I participated in.

philoveritas8 karma

Probationary volunteer firefighter here.

What do you think about the new approach being adopted by some fire departments wherein two firefighter/paramedics (protected by two police officers) enter the warm zone of an active shooter scene before the shooter is neutralized to retrieve victims who can be saved?

fatterSurfer15 karma

If I'd continued with the Fire/EMS route I would probably have pushed hard to be a tactical medic, either on the military side or the domestic side. I have mixed feelings:

  • I would be personally uncomfortable in the warm zone without (at least) my own sidearm
  • That requires a whoooooole lot more training. Like, a lot. If I had to be critical of one thing in the US LEO community... well, okay, #1 would be inadequate de-escalation training, #2 would be inadequate psych training and evaluation (particularly about personal biases against, ex, race, sexual orientation, etc), but #3 would be a tie between inadequate firearms training (this is definitely starting to change) and an inadequate culture of personal, professional, and organizational responsibility (this is a complaint I have about society in general, it's just the consequences of it in a LEO environment are way, way more pronounced than if you're a pass-the-buck dickhole at Lockheed Martin or something).
  • I personally would enjoy that training, and enjoy maximizing the difference you can make, and put perhaps too much trust in my ability to not fuck things up. You can undoubtedly make a much bigger difference if you push into the warm zone, it just comes at substantially elevated risk.

Red_Raven8 karma

How did you get motivated to take on two vastly different and extremely difficult careers?

fatterSurfer11 karma

Last I counted, it was three or four.

  • I worked as a machinist for 4-6 years, depending how you count it
  • Mechanical engineering (and even within that, I've done biorobotics, autonomous lawnmowers, cars, hybrids, dabbled in biomedical, and then the instrumentation gig I mentioned in OP)
  • EMS/fire
  • Software with a side of infosec (aka, trying to make privacy a thing we have again)

I've also been involved in theatre (directed a college production of Sweeney Todd, stage managed Rent, set artist/decorator for Avenue Q, crewed a bunch, was onstage once or twice in HS...) and probably other things I'm forgetting.

Mostly, I just find problems that I think would be rewarding to solve, that are personally meaningful to me, and then try to maximize my time accordingly.

Knight_of_Ninestars7 karma

Why do I have you tagged as "loves his nips?"

Husibrap6 karma

Can you please describe your psychological state when you were acting as the perpetrator? Did you feel like you "became" the attacker?

fatterSurfer19 karma

Not at all. I was totally in-character when the drill was ON and I was interacting with responders, but behind the scenes I was bullshitting with my hostages and getting to know three people I'd never met before who just happened to be locked in a dark closet together.

We had to do an hour-plus simulation hold for an actual call, and so we took a bio break. Many jokes were had with LEO about "hey we caught him" and some attaboys and stuff. After I was officially "dead" and had been carried out of the room by SWAT, we pretty much immediately switched to bullshitting. Actually something of an oops on my part was that I forgot to leave my EDC pocket knife at home (I, and I'm not joking here, primarily use it for cutting open bananas and packages, which is maybe a little ridiculous) and the guy who stripped it from me was like "uhhh, do you want this back?"

Having the ability to jump around headspaces like that has been really valuable in my life.

ggWolf4 karma

How many times did you die during these simulations?

fatterSurfer13 karma

The only time I died was when I was the shooter.

anarchicky3 karma

Does your training in EMT/firefighting relate to your email encryption business?

fatterSurfer7 karma

Ostensibly there isn't really a connection. Psychologically I tend to do things that I think make the world fundamentally less shitty, which is why I got into both areas. From my perspective, data privacy (personal data autonomy, really) is one of (perhaps the) most important question we're facing today. Unfortunately I'm a little concerned about the finances of what things on that front, but we'll see how things go.

C-Drive2 karma

Is your private/encrypted email service based in the US?

fatterSurfer3 karma

For now, yes. I'd like to make it transnational between US and Germany for 60% personal, 40% business reasons, but that is way, way, WAY down the road (if it happens at all).

One of the core points in what I'm doing is to use cryptography to remove all trust in the person who owns the servers storing your data. At this point, I'm basically operating under the assumption that every server has been compromised in some way, and taking a damage/risk management approach from there.

TrekkieMonster2 karma

OP is all over this. Are you procrastinating from something?

fatterSurfer1 karma

Heh I work for myself these days but yeah, I suppose I could be doing "press outreach" or writing code. Or I could take a psychologically-much-needed day off.

naraic422 karma

What did you actually "do" as the bad guy hostage taker? Sounds like it would be a hell of a lot of fun if you could just do your own script on the fly.

fatterSurfer2 karma

I had a handler and a rough progression of events to follow, but beyond that it was up to me. At the very beginning I started with my fake girlfriend (funny story, she was an IRL friend of mine and thought it was hilarious when she found out I was playing the bad guy) in the car, then walked walked through the route I took as per the scenario plan, with my handler, into the main room we were staging from. The end of that was one larger room (the one you can see in the pics) and from there, I grabbed my three hostages and we went into a back closet. Then I pretty much hung out there for the rest of the scenario, until I went back into the main room, tried to pick off an officer, and shot myself in the head.

In the interim in the back room, there was a lot of hanging out with the hostages, a decent amount of simulated social media involvement between myself and the "outside world" (legal, university PR, external press, LEO, etc), and a 90 minutes (or more, don't remember how long the call was) on the phone with an actual, real, regional FBI hostage negotiator.

It was definitely a neat experience but for me personally, it isn't much more noteworthy than, say, fire academy was.

Saintzillla2 karma

What's your favorite dinosaur?

fatterSurfer6 karma

If this is a reference to what I think it's a reference to, the clear answer is "a filthy stegosaurus". ;)

Troub3131 karma

Holy fuck that GIF of SWAT clearing a room is scary... They just walked right in the room. Jesus fuck, they'd be so many shades of lit up. Do you know who was doing the tactical training for these guys?

fatterSurfer4 karma

What you can't hear is that I'd been on the phone with the regional FBI hostage negotiator, who had negotiated to allow them to clear the downed officer. The downed officer was the last one out of the main room, but cleared prior to my three "hostages" (and before I "negotiated" for lunch haha). As per the scenario, he had been shot in the neck, and this was at least 30 minutes in to the sim, so the assumption was definitely "body retrieval with a hopeful side of maybe treat him".

I'm hesitant to say this, because this is obviously a very public forum, but I think some good can come out of it, as a reminder to LEOs not to get too amped up on adrenaline. At the very beginning of the scenario, two officers stacked up behind the wooden door to the closet I was in with hostages, trying to attempt a breach. I was supine, feet against the door (aka less than 6 feet away), and had clear shots at both centers of mass, head, and so on, several of which I actually saw through the window. If you're a LEO, do not do this unless you've specifically trained for it (aka SWAT). We all agreed after the fact that both of those officers would be dead.

Chachbag1 karma

Nice moulage. I have also been a part of many mass casualty simulations during my time in the Air Force. Both as part of the security team and as a victim. They are both fun and chaotic. Here is the moulage that was done to me for a simulated dirty bomb attack on our base. I was wondering if you had more fun being the good guy or the bad guy? http://i.imgur.com/iq2o7.jpg

fatterSurfer1 karma

Niiiice burns, those are prosthetics I'm assuming? The trick is in blending the edges.

From a different response (sorry, time optimization and all that): My favorite was being the bad guy, because it was the most rewarding by far. I got a lot of compliments from people I have a great deal of respect for, and shooting the shit with some of the guys afterwards was really nice. It was, by a massive margin, the biggest difference I made in the world through any of the drills.

donotsay1 karma

You seem like the sort of person who is constantly fascinated by "waht's around the next bend" and drawn to new opportunities every few years. Is the real reason you chose not to pursue firefighting because you realized that the job (compared to expectations) is actually quite repetitive and boring? Yes every call is different, but most of those minor EMT calls in the middle of the night probably seem to all blend together after a few years.

fatterSurfer1 karma

A little of that, yeah. I seriously considered trying to be a military medic (I was on a big pararescue binge for a while, which I think would have been a very good fit for me actually, despite the absurdly high dropout rate). But at the end of the day, as trite and overplayed as it is, I ran the math on the biggest way I could make the world less shitty. The answer to that has changed a bit over time, but at this point I'm pretty convinced that working on personal data autonomy (which requires privacy!) is probably one of, if not the, single most important questions of today.


Hey Nick! Thanks for doing this AMA!

I'm currently in college (undergraduate) right now and so I was wondering: What is the best piece of advice/wisdom you could give to someone like me?

fatterSurfer2 karma

Not a big fan of cliches but what the hell.

First: Don't fuck up. Most accurate, least helpful advice you'll ever get. Personal favorite.

Second: take calculated risks. Take risks, because otherwise you'll miss out. Make sure you understand them beforehand, because otherwise you'll fuck up. See #1.

Third: move your ass. Literally and figuratively. Was told to me by my uncle about photography, but I think it's good life advice.

korny12345-8 karma

Was one of your simulations ever later used as a false flag by the government?

fatterSurfer7 karma

Edit: I responded before drinking my coffee and didn't totally understand the question. My general rule is not to dignify "9/11 truthers" etc with a response. However, this is interesting stuff, so I'll keep my response here.

Nono, all of them involved the government and the public to a massive extent; that's why you do them.

I don't remember if I was a victim at one or two incidents, but the one I have pictures of in OP were through the national flight nurse academy. We had regional aeromedical and the local sherriff's office involved for that.

The first one I was responding to (where I was the triage officer) was 80% to give collegiate responders like me experience that they would never get; if an MCI happened on campus (that particular scenario was a gas explosion) we would be there in a first responder and support role but no more. Still, we had the local FD there, and campus PD as well.

The second one I was responding to was a much larger regional one, and I was just in a support role for that. Local FD took over command, and campus PD, local PD, as well as maybe regional PD, and I think aeromedical (though they might have had a call and been unable to participate; it was 5 years ago so my memory isn't perfectly clear). The scenario there was someone got pissed off at graduation and drove their car through the crowd.

The one I was the perp at was a regional simulation that didn't involve campus EMS at all, except as volunteer victims. Regional FBI, regional SWAT, regional LEOs, campus LEOs, local FD, aeromedical... it was a very large simulation, involvement-wise. The scenario was my grad lab was being closed down and I'd been working on my dissertation forever, so I decided to drive my "girlfriend" down to campus without saying anything, with a bomb in the trunk of the car, shoot up the school, take some hostages, and then I had both a simulated pipe bomb and improvised radiological device with my person throughout the drill.