More than 265 people have been killed in mass shootings between the Columbine tragedy in 1999 through the most recent armed attack at Sandy Hook Elementary last month.
As members of the fire service, we now know that no-notice events such as those in Aurora, Colo.; Portland, Ore.; and Newton, Conn.; have and will occur anywhere, at any place, to anyone or demographic. There is not one among us who hasn't been touched by the more recent events in Webster, N.Y., where firefighters became the target of a planned armed attack.
Accordingly, the USFA will study these events in both this country and internationally to identify risk commonalities and best practices to successfully respond to these diverse incidents. The topical report will be released later this month and is currently undergoing extensive peer reviews.
In the interim,offers these universal steps to ensure fire and EMS personnel are best prepared to meet this unique and challenging threat.
The most important action we can take is to determine the lead agency for these incidents, which will be law enforcement in the vast majority of cases. Regardless of lead agency declaration, make contact with local or state law enforcement officials and special operations team leadership to become familiar with their strategies and tactical operations. Some possible subjects for discussion and planning follow:
- Potential roles and equipment law enforcement expects from fire and EMS assets (e.g., forcible entry, lights, aerial devices, etc.).
- Review command, control and communications operations.
- Review of NIMS terminology along with any technical law enforcement terminology fire and EMS personnel may have a need to know.
- A discussion of how survivor triage will occur and if law enforcement desires training in same.
- How will injured law enforcement officers be managed? Early on in the incident a protected area should be declared and communicated to EMS leadership.
- Casualty collection points for citizens, EMS triage and how transportation and communications with area hospitals occur.
- What steps should be taken at high risk occupancies to mitigate the loss of life and coordinate with first response personnel.
- Once the plan is developed, it should be exercised and updated annually.
There is much more valuable information to be learned from past events and the best practices created by those who have experienced one of these incidents. Click through to the USFA website for more information sources.