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Your Community`s Active-Shooter Response: Are You Prepared?

If it seems like the number of active shooter incidents are on the rise, it's because they are.

Between 2002 and 2012, there were 154 active-shooter events in the United States, including 35 in just 2012. Despite this growing problem, a recent IAFC poll shows that 76% of responding departments don't have active-shooter SOGs.

Active-shooter events are dynamic; in 56% of incidents, an active shooter is firing on arrival of the first law-enforcement resource. On average, these events have yielded two victims killed and an additional four victims with penetrating trauma but alive upon arrival of responding public-safety resources. Business venues accounted for over 70% of locations favored by active shooters, followed closely by schools.

The Need for Multidisciplinary Preplanning

These facts provide a compelling picture of the need for multidisciplinary preplanning and development of multidisciplinary SOGs. Multidisciplinary response preplanning should include but not necessarily be limited to:

  • Regional law enforcement
  • Fire rescue and EMS responders
  • Emergency communications centers/personnel, hospitals
  • School personnel and public-information resources

This planning allows for each discipline to bring their expertise and issues to the table to develop a comprehensive, unified response plan. This addresses key issues that have been identified as challenges and opportunities in previous active-shooter events.

Preplanning activities should clearly establish the use of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) across the event, providing a structured and orderly multidisciplinary approach. Certain disciplines may more routinely utilize NIMS; preplanning allows for a cohesive understanding and approach to unified command during an active shooter.

Knowing that nearly 75% of active-shooter events occur in either businesses or schools allows you to preplan the physical plant at these facilities, something probably already being done by your fire-prevention personnel. This presents an opportunity to expand on this activity and share the information among all multidisciplinary providers.

Communication Is Critical

Communication is a critical element in preplanning. This  broad area of response must be fully preplanned to include interoperability among all disciplines and predesignated radio communications.

Communication activities should include a regional approach as these incidents have the potential to escalate and require resources from beyond the initial jurisdiction.

SOGs and communications must address the resources will be ordered through the unified command/NIMS structure and all disciplines must refrain from self-dispatching. This also requires that formalized incident- and personnel-accountability processes are in place and understood by all involved.

Public information should be handled in response to the continuous news-cycle feeds and the great prevalence of social media and instantaneous information flow. Using a joint information center and approach should be considered to address the multidisciplinary, often multijurisdiction by nature of these events.

Local preplanning should establish the perimeters including hot, warm and cold zones and who will be operating within each. This should particularly focus on how to most effectively deliver medical care to victims with force protection and appropriate PPE. It should be noted that victims often suffer from multiple penetrating wounds and so must become surgical-intervention and time-dependent emergencies to stem life-threatening hemorrhage.

Don’t Forget Multidisciplinary Training

Lastly but just as important is regular and ongoing multidisciplinary training. Most organizations fail not from lack of planning but failure in the execution of translating strategy into action. The best established preplans become stagnant plans if they aren't exercised regularly with all disciplines involved in the planning process.

These training events should exercise response, communications, treatment and post-event issues. Without doubt, opportunities for improvement will be identified as the plans are exercised, and then addressed and the plans revised. This cycle should be continuous that plan, do, check and act.

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