Active Shooter: Plan, Prepare, and Initiate
Jose Medina, APCLLC President/Training Consultant
Through the past 4 years of conducting active shooter instructor training programs as well as basic operations programs for all law enforcement, we have been privileged to work with some of the most highly motivated and best officers in the world. This is due to the fact the majority have attended the programs with an “open mind” which gives an added advantage to potential instructors when bringing ideas and plans back to their respective agencies.
With that being said, there has been a recent push in police agencies initiating stronger training and response plans towards dealing with the active shooter and critical incidents that are similar in nature. Here is a list of some of the areas officers are facing when it comes to dealing with the active shooter response:
1. Many schools and instructors are teaching the “only way” style of training response movements and operations. This has become some of the most dangerous areas in the training and operations side of the house simply because many agencies are smaller in nature and do not have 6 to 10 officers that can immediately respond to the critical situation.
2. There are current policies in place where it is mandatory that a minimum of “4” officers enter the building to seek out the threat. Ask yourself then: If you and another officer respond to the scene and see the shooter on the inside of the doorway area about to execute potential victims, do you act?
3. Agencies are not giving the sufficient amount of hours to allot for specific training for this type of event.
4. Agency heads are expecting their officers who are responsible for the training section of the agency to have the solutions to the problems before any assessments of their agency and their surroundings are put in motion.
5. Time required for training: What type of training block will be presented and more importantly, does it meet the needs of your agency?
6. Many attend programs for active shooter response operations and then attempt to follow word by word, step by step all the operations that were conducted in a multi-day training program. Does it fit your overall plans and needs?
These are just some of the situations officers are facing every day in properly preparing their personnel for an event such as this. But what is the next step in the “rapid response” with positive results? Here are some ideas and basic concepts that may help to stimulate some positive response in your training and operations:
• Quick strategy with department heads: What this means is prior to, during or after attending training or assessing your areas of concerns, take the time to figure out what plans you currently have in place. If you have yet to establish any plan, now is a good time to start the process rolling in high gear.
• Training Staff: What type of instructors do you currently have? Are they trained in overall good basic and solid tactics such as firearms handling, basic entry 101 and more importantly: Do they have the ability to disseminate the information appropriately and effectively without reciting words from another instructor’s program? Remember if they are teaching you “the way” style and not allowing for variable options it may lose the interest of your personnel.
• Hours of training: How many hours of training will your agency allow for this type of training? Does it have to be all hands on? No, however make sure aspects of the program cover the importance of good weapons handling, good entry techniques and most importantly: GOOD COMMUNICATION ACROSS THE BOARD.
• Your current weapon and technology availability: Do you have enough in your weapon arsenal to engage the threats effectively along with good technology to counter the threat? Threats come in different shapes and sizes carrying weapons such as hand guns all the way up to high powered rifles. Assess you agency and see what you are currently utilizing and what you can possibly add to your response plans from high powered weapons, thermal camera systems and counter ambush sensor systems. Although many of these items come with a price tag, many of these items come in forms of grants that can accommodate your agency needs.
• When developing the plans, try to find out what agencies you may have available to assist you in the response. You would be surprised what agencies would want to assist in an event such as this. Many are trying to work with other agencies in the response operations and planning of a critical event such as this.
While we have covered just some of the critical areas in dealing with an event such as this, there is much more that needs to be looked at but only you can establish the areas that hinder or assist your current operations. Many of the areas covered here are used to help establish some type of awareness to the problems that currently exist. Earlier we talked about a situation unfolding before possibly 2 or 3 officers with a threat inside an area where the threat can be seen attempting to cause harm to innocent victims.
Remember you must work off your policy and procedures when it comes to many critical and deadly encounters. However, if you fail to act on a situation due to a specified numbers game knowing you and a fellow officer could do something about the situation, what support and ripple affect will you feel in the aftermath? Do you have a policy in place in an event such as this? There is no 100% perfect solution to this problem. The summary of it all is to take some time to conduct assessments of your facilities such as the schools, businesses, shopping malls and even correctional facilities in the area. Remember, this type of situation is responding to chaos. It is up to you whether or not you want it to be a “controlled chaos” response and event with appropriate planning or simply an “out of control” chaotic mess?