In most cases, active shooter incidents take place in a populated area and have no particular rhyme or reason behind the selection of victims, which results in a highly unpredictable, rapidly evolving situation. In the midst of all this chaos, the immediate and carefully orchestrated deployment of emergency personnel, such as law enforcement, SWAT teams, EMS and trauma centers, is critical in order to successfully stop the threat and mitigate harm to the victims.
As with any incident management situation, preparation is key. Below are three ways that first responders can prepare for an active shooter scenario:
1. Develop an Emergency Action Plan
The first step should be developing an emergency action plan (EAP) that outlines how emergency personnel should respond in the event of an active shooter. It’s important to take the time to gather input from a variety of sources, such as local law enforcement and emergency responders, HR, city officials, area hospitals, school resource officers (if applicable) and any training departments that might be involved.
Generally speaking, an effective EAP should include:
- Each person’s responsibilities and contact information
- Preferred method for reporting information
- Protocols and procedures for first responders and area hospitals regarding deployment and specific steps to be taken as the situation unfolds
- Escape route assignments (e.g., floor plans, safe areas)
- Designated hospital areas to intake and handle the influx of victims
All involved parties should be well versed on the EAP and have a copy handy in the event that an active shooter situation occurs.
2. Conduct Regular Training Exercises
By far, the most effective way to prepare first responders on how to respond to an active shooter situation is by conducting mock training exercises on a regular basis. This should include both indoor and outdoor scenarios, as technique, formations and other tactics can differ greatly.
Because law enforcement is usually the first to arrive on scene, it’s important to provide training in triage and applying immediate, life-saving techniques such as tourniquets and occlusive dressings that help control bleeding. In addition, incorporating specialized training aimed at helping first responders to avoid “tunnel vision” and “audio exclusion,” as done with SWAT teams, is key in the event of an active shooter situation.
3. Establish an Incident Management System
When an active shooter situation takes place, it typically generates a great deal of conflicting information as many different accounts of the event are reported. One of the biggest challenges that responding agencies and incident management commanders face is being able to quickly collect and organize that information, and then effectively communicate a correct version of events to appropriate parties.
By implementing an incident management system, emergency personnel are able to unite and automate real-time critical decision making and communication. This helps to streamline their response, while local officials are still able to make command-and-control decisions on a tactical level.
Another benefit is that it allows all emergency personnel – from law enforcement and EMS, to area hospitals – to efficiently work as a team, which is critical in a situation where seconds truly matter. It can also be integrated with NIMS and HICS to monitor triage, resource status, critical infrastructure and document management, allowing vital information to be easily and clearly communicated to appropriate parties.
For instance, this system can help track the locations of emergency personnel. This is especially important given that law enforcement officers and other first responders will often self-dispatch during a crisis, even when off duty and in plain clothes—making them difficult to identify otherwise.
The incident management system should have a “run card” that is specifically tailored to a given community and addresses protocols such as:
- An emergency notification system to alert necessary parties (e.g., first responders, area hospitals, individuals at remote locations on premises, city officials)
- Predesignated areas where each party should be deployed
- A transport officer who will know the total number of victims, types of injuries and where to send them
- Quickest routes to trauma centers and other area hospitals
- Predetermined number and location of ambulances based on severity
- Availability of area hospitals to handle the influx of patients and/or help the hospital that is being inundated
In a time when active shooter situations are unfortunately all too common, it’s more critical now than ever before that first responders take proactive steps to thoroughly prepare for this worst-case scenario. It can, after all, be the difference between life and death.
Interested in learning more about Knowledge Center’s Incident Management Solutions? Contact us today for a free demo.