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Your questions answered – The new ‘War Years': When mass shootings become commonplace

The panelists answer attendee questions related to NFPA 3000, PPE, grants, armed firefighters, RTFs, working with law enforcement, and more


View the on-demand webinar, “The new ‘War Years’: When mass shootings become commonplace,” and get your training questions answered.

AP Photo/John Locher

By FireRescue1 Editorial Staff and Webinar Panelists

The 1970s fire service was known as the “War Years,” with arson-for-profit schemes causing countless fire responses, particularly in urban areas like New York City. While modern-era fire responses have declined, the uptick in active shooter events has created a new “War Years” for firefighters on the front lines of once-thinkable incidents.

FireRescue1’s recent webinar, “The new ‘War Years’: When mass shootings become commonplace,” reviewed the current state of fire department expectations and response around active shooter incidents, whether firefighters are receiving increased training, and how fire departments are managing the enhanced stress related to these events. Panelists address the status of NFPA 3000: Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response Program, as well as unique approaches to active shooter training, like tactical fire teams that work with other first responders.

Webinar attendees asked several relevant questions during the event, which our team have panelists have answered below.

[View the on-demand webinar here]

Chief Julie Downey’s answers

Julie Downey is the fire chief for Davie (Florida) Fire Rescue. Chief Downey serves as the chair for NFPA 3000 as well as chair of the State of Florida Disaster Response Committee. Downey has been involved with MCI training for 25 years, and authored the State of Florida MCI Procedure and MCI Field Operations Guides.

How can we access NFPA 3000-sanctioned online training?

You can find the training in the NFPA catalog here.

Several questions followed a similar theme and answer:

  • Is NFPA 3000 going to address better management from a technology focus?
  • Is NFPA looking at having the ability for RTFs down range to see their location on a moving map with building floor plans?
  • Is it important to have the ability to dynamically place a CCP and define the hot zone with a polygon to better collaborate?
  • How about, from the command perspective, to be able to calculate the patient count via an incident-specific technology application?

The answer to all of the above is yes. We have an evolving technology task group that is looking at tracking, accountability of victims and personnel on scene.
Is there a helmet recommendation in NFPA 3000?

No, there is not. Chapter 14 is the Ballistic Protective Equipment (BPE). In chapter, it states, “Integrated response teams shall consider the use of a ballistic helmet, a flashlight, medical exam gloves, an individual first aid kit, a radio with shoulder strap and remote microphones with earpieces for communication.”

How has law enforcement embraced NFPA 3000?

My concern would be that they see it as a “fire industry” solution and not encompassing of EMS, law enforcement, etc.

How is law enforcement learning about this?

We have been diligently working on this issue and trying to involve more law enforcement. We currently have FBI, DOJ, International Association on Police Chiefs and ALERRT.

Will this be utilized by police, and is there a plan to have increased prevention of these incidents in the works as part of this standard?

We have been diligently working on this issue and trying to involve more law enforcement. We currently have FBI, DOJ, International Association on Police Chiefs and ALERRT. At this point, the standard does not have prevention of an active assailant, but we are discussing the issue.

Should fire/EMS be trained to use an officer’s weapon? Is that a consideration or a common practice?

The standard does not address this issue, and it would be up the AHJ to determine.

I am a volunteer firefighter. Do firefighters need to wear armed suits for emergencies?

Any fire or EMS personnel being assigned to go into the warm zone/rescue task force should wear the proper ballistic protective equipment. NFPA 3000 Chapter 14 PPE covers the ballistic protection BPE requirements.

Chief John Donnelly’s answers

John Donnelly is the fire and EMS chief for the DC Fire and EMS Department. Chief Donnelly previously served as the Division Commander of Special Operations, Homeland Security, and Apparatus Division, and as a member of the Command Staff in Special Projects and executive officer roles

How often would you recommend law enforcement and fire/EMS training?

Each organization has different needs. We are a large department and our police department is even larger. We are at our best when there is joint monthly training. Our strength is that both organizations have SOGs for their teams so that whoever shows up can perform the tasks. (On the FD side, we only deploy certain units to the warm zone – rescue squads and special events units.) More important than the training for all of us is the agreement to work together, have a unified command, and a commitment to saving lives and honoring each other’s mission.

How do you deal with agency leadership that believes Fire/EMS should not enter an ASE, and should stage away until police have declared it cold? How do you get buy-in when the mindset is this is a LE issue?

The best counter to this point of view is to focus on what is best for the patient. NFPA 3000 is design to stop the dying, and in the fire service, our mission is to save lives. To your particular questions, studies have shown that waiting until an incident is cold causes patients that could have been saved to bleed out and die. Uvalde is the latest example of that. Education on the standard (how it mitigates risk and saves lives) is key to forming strong talking points. Additionally, be open to a menu of solutions that may make your chief more comfortable. The best scenario may be a commitment from your LE partners to bring patients to a casualty collection point as they find them, instead of deploying a rescue task force. Or LE partners can deploy tourniquets and chest seals.

I believe we should start considering having at least one EMS/fire first responder armed. Their role would be to NOT interact with the patient but maintain an overwatch role and only get involved with patient care if absolutely necessary. I know this is slippery slope on some points. What are your opinions?

Considering the legal challenges and liability that come with use of force by government officials (armed FFs), I would expect that anyone doing that would have to have LE training and certification as a LEO. Maintaining that training, support, and policies seems like a heavy lift for most organizations. IF those premises are true, I’m not sure I want someone who is only utilizing their LE training on the most confusing and chaotic scenes you can imagine being my security. The potential harm to the employee or others seems very high.

What do you do if your LE agency does not want to use uniform on scene terminology?

If you are talking with them, you are in a good place. Continue talking. Understand their points and reasons. While it may not be perfect, there are options: You can change your terminology (not ideal), train members in both systems, rely on unified command to sort it out, and again, keep talking. If you know about the problem, then it is a problem that can be addressed. The problem is the things you don’t know about.

Battalion Chief Eric Klaas’ answers

Eric Klaas serves as the training battalion chief for the Loveland (Colorado) Fire Rescue Authority. He has been involved in active shooter curriculum development, training and response since 2007. Klaas spent 11 years as member of the Loveland Police Department SWAT team as tactical firefighter and retired as SWAT team leader.

What is the grant source you referenced in the webinar?

There are several grants opportunities for your agency at the federal, state and local levels. Federally, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP), and Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) grant program through the Department of Justice are available to all emergency response agencies. State and local grants vary depending on the state, county or city. Check with your emergency manager for grant opportunities.

ALERRT is a grant-funded program; however, you don’t have to do any of the grant work, as it is already done for you. Your agency isn’t receiving the grant money, ALERRT is receiving the grant money to provide the training at little to no cost.

What are your thoughts on ALICE vs ALERRT?

My understanding is ALICE is more for civilian response to an ASE and generally at schools, more along the lines of Run, Hide, Fight is for the civilians involved in the incident. ALERRT is for the emergency response to an ASE.

What does the TAC fire teams consist of, staffing wise?

LFRA’s team consists of a specialized engine company responding out of a station 24/7. It is staffed with three per shift – a standard staffing model of a company officer, engineer and firefighter. The program is overseen by a station captain and the program manager (battalion chief). Large incidents or long-duration incidents involve calling back the other shifts’ TAC fire members. Planned events can also include using off-duty members to keep the on-duty company in service.

What was the source of the ICS training (Active Shooter Incident Management)?

Active Shooter Incident Management (ASIM) is an ICS class taught through ALERRT and is NIMS compliant. Learn more here.

The site lists many available training sessions under the Request Training tab. Which one is the recommended course for the fire service?

Do you form RTFs from the staging area, or can they meet police on the fringe of the warm zone?
In a perfect world, with a perfect deployment model, yes, RTF should deploy with force protection from the staging area. However, the reality of this happening initially can be difficult due to the dynamic circumstances that each individual event poses. The important part is to train with your LE partners and have a communications plan that facilitates FD/LE linking up to form an RTF.

For an ASHE, should first responding units that link up with law enforcement be called rescue task forces or by their unit designator?

I think this is agency specific. If you’re following the ALERRT model, you would be called RTF 1, 2, 3 and so on. Again, I think the important part is to train with your LE partners and have a communications plan that facilitates FD/LE linking up to form an RTF and deploy with appropriate accountability.

What are some best practices/fire department relationships to help maximize the possible number of lives saved through stop the bleed until help arrives?

For those departments that don’t have ballistic gear, do you find they are still doing joint training with LE? Should they begin the training in hopes they’ll eventually get the gear?
Yes. I think there is a misconception that you have to have ballistics to be an RTF. Ballistics are just a risk management tool; they don’t make you bulletproof! In fact, they are only covering about one-third of your body, and depending on the type of armor, some can be defeated by something as simple as a knife or as complex as a rifle round. The reality is, if you aren’t training with law enforcement, when this event happens, LEOs are going to do the best they can. If you’re not an available resource, LE will transport people to any building that says “Emergency” on it, whether the facility is capable of handling trauma or not. This often just relocates an MCI and delays proper care to victims, thus decreasing survivability. Please don’t let ballistic gear be a deciding factor on training. The training is where the relationship starts! I think you will be surprised at the opportunities that will arise from developing a relationship with LE.

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