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5 ways to prepare for an active shooter

Tragedies like that in Roseburg, Ore. can happen anywhere; use these tips to kick-start your MCI planning so as not to be blindsided


The events in Douglas County Oregon reminded me that no one is immune to acts of violence: no town is too small, or too remote or too sleepy to eliminate the possibility of tragedy paying it a visit.

I reviewed the dispatch tape from this event and was impressed by the professionalism, the poise and the deliberateness of all who responded to what had to be a chaotic and horrific scene.

Police officers were on the scene in less than 4 minutes. They engaged and neutralized the threat in less than 5 minutes. Fire and EMS resources were marshaled quickly and efficiently.

Listening to these professionals do their work also reminded me of the things we all have to do to be prepared to respond to acts of mass violence in our community. Here are five of those items.

1. Mentally prepare
First and foremost you have to believe that this can happen in your community. It can happen to you whether you live in New York City or Roseburg Oregon.

Because if you don’t believe in your that it can happen, you won’t do what is necessary to prepare.

2. Build relationships
The next step is to review your relationships with the different people and agencies that will be involved in this incident. This includes those from law enforcement, public office, the media and neighboring emergency response agencies.

If you wait until the incident occurs to meet and interact with these critical partners, you are behind the curve. Reach out and get to know these folks.

Set planning meetings, exercises and drills to get used to how each of you work, what your operational imperatives are as well as each other’s strengths and weakness.

Those relationships will pay off big time when a major event strikes your community. The plan is important, but the planning process is everything.

3. Know your limitations
Understand what you agencies limitations are. If you only have one ALS ambulance and 20 people are injured, you better have thought about where those other EMS units are coming from.

You better have a first-name relationship with and a phone number at your disposal for the person who can get those resources moving.

4. Deliver aid fast
Develop a plan to get medical aid to victims sooner rather than later. Sitting staged in a safe location away from the action doesn’t cut it anymore.

Develop plans to provide care in the warm zone as soon as possible after injury. This means having an active violence protocol in concert with your law enforcement partners such as the rescue task force concept that couples EMS providers with law enforcement offices to get to victims in minutes rather tens of minutes.

5. Practice the plan
You can’t have first responders to show up to an incident and be expected to jump into a dangerous area, wearing equipment they have never seen before, let alone worked in, and operate with people they don’t know using unfamiliar terms.

This has to be a team sport, and successful teams practice together.

There are many resources available for responding to active violence incidents. There are many people who are willing to work with you. There are protocols and plans that have been developed that are yours for the asking.

But first you have to accept the fact that on any given day, in any given town, there are bad people who are capable of and willing to bring harm to your community.

Chief Rob Wylie is a 29-year fire service veteran who retired as fire chief of the Cottleville FPD in St. Charles County, Missouri. Wylie has served as a tactical medic and TEMS team leader with the St. Charles Regional SWAT team for the past 19 years. He is a certified instructor and teaches at the state, local and national level on leadership, counter-terrorism and TEMS operations. Wylie graduated from Lindenwood University, the University of Maryland Staff and Command School and the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Connect with Wylie on LinkedIn.