People should not die in exercises!

The article by the Guardian describes a death and multiple injuries incurred by students at a Kenyan university by JUMPING FROM THE BUILDING when they thought they heard an active shooter.  That’s exactly what they heard – but it was an exercise.  And no one told them.  This flat out pisses me off.

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Photo from Twitter account of @jamessmart

Let me emphasize a bit here… THIS IS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE.

When doing any kind of exercise in or near a public area you MUST have a media and public notification on your to-do list.  In fact, have it on your list multiple times.  Why?  Because people don’t always pay attention or remember.  Tell them a month before, then a week before, then two days before, the day before, and all day during the exercise.

Some people may think this is overkill, but people get scared when they hear gunshots, helicopters, and yelling; and even more so when they see people in hazmat suites and tactical gear.  When people get scared, they do things we may not expect – including endangering their own lives.  Be sure to detail in the media releases what people may see and hear, where it will be, and when it will be.  Give a phone number where they can call with questions.  Consider all your audiences and ensure they are being reached – don’t just rely on the media to do this for you.  Ensure that signage is out before and during the exercise identifying the area as an active exercise.  After the exercise, take advantage of the exposure to tell the public what you have learned.  Give them confidence in your capabilities and professionalism.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

Kansas City Changing the Paradigm In Shooter Responses

Despite some discussions going back to late last year about changing they way we respond to mass shootings, I’ve not heard of any major municipalities actually make these changes – until now.  Responders in Kansas City, MO (KCM) have exercised their new plan regarding early insertion of EMS personnel into an active shooter scenario.  The exercise appears to be very early stage, using it as a learning experience from which to further develop plans.  (another great use of exercises!)

I commented on the discussed changes back in January and I still have the same concerns today that I did then.  I had posted some discussion threads similar to my blog post onto LinkedIn discussion boards which prompted some very spirited discussion.  Most people agreed that getting EMS into an active shooter area early can save lives, but it needs to be done the right way.  KCM seems to be going in the right direction by developing plans and protocols jointly with law enforcement and working out the kinks and questions via drills and other exercises.  Carrying the preparedness cycle further, I’m sure they will work toward training and equipping EMTs appropriately for such a situation.  Constant practice of these protocols by all parties will be very important.  Responder safety needs to be the utmost concern.  While there have been incidents to the contrary, we as responders and we as a society are not used to EMTs and firefighters being shot at, much less killed in action by an aggressor.  Certainly the first EMT fatality in an incident such with an early insertion protocol will result in the protocol being aggressively questioned – as it should.  I just hope that those doing the questioning keep the appropriate context.

Just as there is no easy answer on how to stop mass shootings, there are no easy answers on how best to respond to them.  I’m hoping KCM is willing to share their worked out plan and protocols with the responder community so we can learn from them.  Such sharing will be very important to the evolution of responses to these types of incidents.

© 2014 Timothy Riecker

In memoriam – Ape

Ape - Rest in Peace

Ape – Rest in Peace

Many around the nation are aware of the active shooter incident that occurred in central New York earlier this week.  This shooting occurred just a town east of where I live.

In this tragic event, four people, including an off duty corrections officer, were killed and two people were wounded.  As the incident came to a resolution, nearly a full day after it began, a special operations team entered a building where they suspected the shooter was hiding.  As the team searched the building, a Czech German Shepherd born on November 17, 2010 took point.  In the gunfire that was exchanged when the suspect was located, Ape, a K-9 member of the FBI since only February of this year was shot and killed by the suspect.

You can visit the Officer Down Memorial Page to pay your respects to Ape.

NYPD Active Shooter Recommendations and Analysis – December 2012

Timothy Riecker

NYPD Logo

This document, updated by NYPD last month in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, was brought to my attention through LLIS.  It’s also posted on the NYPD’s website here.  This document is a good compilation of practitioner research; official recommendations suitable for schools, businesses, and public buildings; and reflects on the ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ recommendations we’ve seen (NYPD’s version is a little more of a mouth-full – Evacuate, Hide, Take Action).  I like that they provide some information relative to attackers including gender, age, number of attackers (98% of active shooter incidents are carried out by a single attacker), planning tactics, targets, number of casualties, location of attack, weapons used, attack resolution, and other statistics – with this data provided for over 300 case studies (all included in the document).

The real value of this document is that the information which is provided to the reader allows for better informed (instead of emotional or ‘trendy’) decisions on facility security and planning relative to active shooter scenarios.

Thanks to the fine folks at NYPD for doing this work and sharing it with the public safety community.