In the wake of the Orlando tragedy there is a renewed call for “Active Shooter” training for public safety. If you aren’t already familiar with the training, the term speaks for itself. The idea is to bring together a group of professionals to work on how to deal with a situation where there is a person actively shooting, to mitigate the damage, and effectively deal with the situation at hand.

Much of the problem lies with proper training. Only a select few departments have active shooter training and this is mostly due to budgetary constraints, however, there are many resources to help public safety responders be more safe in these crazy situations.

FEMA has developed some courses which help the public  to understand scene what to do in the event of such an emergency. FEMA specifically offers Active Shooter Training for the workplace:

https://training.fema.gov/is/courseoverview.aspx?code=IS-907 (1)

This class isn’t just for the public, but for responding agencies can take these courses and help to educate the public before an emergency situation occurs. This will help to minimize as many casualties as possible.

DHS also offers some free training which can be helpful. Here is another link:

https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness (2)

Often victims and even untrained responders feel powerless to deal with these situations. With the right amount of training, anyone can make a critical difference and save lives. The thinking becomes more automatic and actions that positively impact the situation have a greater chance of succeeding.

If your department doesn’t have active shooter training, I absolutely recommend them getting some training going as soon as possible.

While there isn’t a standard guideline, here are a few recommendations for scene management:

1. Instant communication between ALL responding agencies is key to proper decision making.

2. Roles and responsibilities need to be defined beforehand to ensure as few casualties as possible.

3. EMS Responders need to be placed in a staging area to minimize casualties to responders.

4. EGOS CAN KILL! Yes, that’s right, collaboration between key members is critical to making sure things go smoothly.

5. Train often so it becomes automatic.

It is really important to emphasize that agencies MUST communicate with one another in order for these types of scenes to go as smoothly as possible from the responder perspective. From the smallest scenes to the biggest incidents, it is critical that we talk to each other and include ALL responding agencies to ensure proper coordination. Even the 911 Commission Report details many instances where responder miscommunication and lack of interoperability between departments, contributed to an increase in casualties. (3)  We seem to be learning the communication lesson over and over again. While it may not be feasible to prevent ALL casualties, it is realistic to be able to act in a manner which minimizes as many casualties as possible. This will help to prevent responders from freezing up when encountering such an emergency.

Perhaps one of the most useful pieces of information is a lecture presented by Dr. Richard Kamin in 2014 at the annual NASEMSO meeting. The link below is a good training model which can help to give responders a starting point:

https://www.nasemso.org/Meetings/Annual/Presentations2014/documents/EMS-Response-to-Critical-Incidents-2014.pdf (4)

Many agencies utilize scenario based training which helps responders on what to do during an active shooter situation.

What kind of active shooter training does your department have?

  1. Federal Emergency Management Agency, “IS-907: Active Shooter: What You Can Do,” 28 Dec 2015 https://training.fema.gov/is/courseoverview.aspx?code=IS-907 (Accessed June 19, 2016).
  2. Department of Homeland Security, “Active Shooter Preparedness,” 16 Jun 2016 https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness (Accessed June 19, 2016).
  3. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States: Executive Summary. Washington, D.C.: National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. p. 15. http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Exec.pdf (Accessed June 19, 2016).
  4. Kamin, Richard MD, FACEP, “EMS Repsonse to Active Shooter/Critical Incidents,” National Association of State EMS Officials https://www.nasemso.org/Meetings/Annual/Presentations2014/documents/EMS-Response-to-Critical-Incidents-2014.pdf (Accessed June 19, 2016).