Ep 16: #8 What are you doing with community partners? - "10 Questions from the Mayor" Series

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Episode 16 #8 What are you doing with community partners?

10 Questions for the Mayor to ask the Police and Fire Chief Series

Question 8: "What are you doing with community partners regarding Active Shooter Hostile events?"

Bill Godfrey:

Welcome back to our next podcast. We are continuing our series on 10 questions for the mayor, the city manager, the County manager to ask their police and fire chief together. Today we are covering topic number eight what are you doing with community partners regarding active shooter hostile events? Today I'm joined by Tom Billington, retired fire chief, Stephen Shaw, Sergeant with Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Ron Otterbacher, retired division chief of the Orange County Sheriff's office and Don Tuten, Chief over Homeland Security at Jacksonville Sheriff's office. Welcome guys. Thanks for joining me. My name is Bill Godfrey. I'm one of the instructors at C3 pathways along with the gentleman I just introduced, also a retired fire chief. So Ron, let me start with you because you've got an interesting perspective from the hospital side as well as just decades of law enforcement experience. Talk a little bit about what are the things that we should be doing with our community partners and what in particular you think are the relevant things with hospitals?

Ron Otterbacher:

The big thing is you need to talk to them. There needs to be some adequate discussion and then the private entities or the community partners need to understand what law enforcement or fire or EMS may need should we have an active shooter event. Some of those things is do you need to create a go bag? The go bag should contain such things as your floor plans for your buildings, your keys, your access control cards. If you've got video capabilities, do you have access to view those video capabilities while the incident is ongoing? Is it a permanent position or do you have an iPad this hook to your video systems that you can, the first responders as they're moving through the building have access to that because not every place they go in a building will they be able to be accompanied by someone from your business.

Bill Godfrey:

Interesting stuff. Steven, I'm going to tangent over to you is just a little bit some of what Ron was talking about with the go bag planning and the response planning. You of course have a fairly sizable university in your region, right in your backyard. Talk a little bit about some of the challenges with that large student population working with the university. They have their own police department that's there on campus. Talk a little bit about working with them as a community partner in this.

Stephen Shaw:

A lot of times what it takes is working together ahead of time on just regular incidents, regular calls. Can we communicate over the radio? Do we know who we are? Can we navigate around campus? Can we navigate around town? A lot of this stuff is pre-work that is done before we have a significant event and then as we're planning these significant events, we need to work together on our exercises. Are we training the same things? Are we teaching the same principles? Do we have the same line of thought as far as reunification, as far as intelligence gathering? Can we use each other's facilities? All of these questions need to be asked ahead of time and a lot of it takes place on the regular call level as far as when we go to traffic crashes, can we communicate with each other? If we have a crash that happens on campus, but our jurisdiction responds to for whatever reason.

Bill Godfrey:

I'm curious have either one of you, Steve or Ron worked out, beyond the idea of a go bag, any type of prearranged access plans for responders. I mean obviously we don't want to get into specifics here on a general public podcast, but what are the types of things that, if you've got a large, and I'll call it a campus facility, just using that generically, whether it's a large business, a large hospital, a large school, university, large church, what are the types of things that those folks should do to prepare for receiving responders and having access beyond just the typical go bags? Where do they keep the go bags? Can you guys, Steve, you want to talk a little bit about some of that again? Avoid any specifics to those facilities, but just in a general sense?

Stephen Shaw:

Well, one of the things that we try to do is, especially, so say for example, a new apartment building, a lot of times they will have secured doors that have punch codes for a password or something like that. What we try to do is they have to pass that information usually along to the fire department per codes and so what we try to do as our community services people get up with the fire department, get up with those entities so that we have access to those codes ahead of time. If it's not a code, is it a key and something like a Knox box? Do we have access to the Knox box so we can get in there, finding all that stuff out and then if we have access to floor plans, can we get that information again, in my area, the fire department generally has access to floor plans of new construction. The same with the university. Do we have access to that ahead of time and our people in the field that deal with that kind of stuff? We try to remind them to try to gather that information as much as possible. So it is put out to responding officers and also to incident commanders for an event.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, it's a really interesting comment. Tom, I'm going to come over to you. Can you talk a little bit about the general idea of Knox box. Not everybody listening may actually know what that program is, but certainly something in the fire service generally has been doing for years and address a couple of those things that Steven just mentioned.

Tom Billington:

Yes. In the fire service, the Knox box program is a key vault that either holds keys, so you can enter a facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week or it may have some codes in it that you can access coded doors and it's usually accessible by a County fire departments and even law enforcement if they share that information. And so it's a good way to make access 24 hours a day, seven days a week to these facilities.

Bill Godfrey:

And Tom while you're talking about it, what are some of your perspectives from the fire and EMS side on the community partnerships or the outreaches? What are the things that when you were a fire chief concerns you about this that you'd want to meet and talk with folks about?

Tom Billington:

Well, most of your county managers as mine did know that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) requires a local emergency planning council, which has, you're supposed to have politicians, responders, hospitals all involve meeting to discuss plans. As a County manager, I would want to know are we using the LEPC (Local Emergency Planning Council) to talk to these partners about an active shooter plan? How are we all responding together as a community or a county? And so if you have a LEPC (Local Emergency Planning Council), which you should, hopefully this is an issue or these issues are brought up here on a regular basis on that committee.

Bill Godfrey:

That's a really interesting perspective. The getting the LEPC involved, which then loops you in with a whole bunch of community partners. Don, you've got some experience with some fusion centers and I know that not everywhere in the country is necessarily covered by one, but there are a number of them that are pretty active. Is there a role here for the fusion centers? Do we need to work with them ahead of time? How does that fit?

Don Tuten:

Absolutely. So most places around the country do have fusion centers, either on the state level or local level and both. The local levels will talk with the state levels as well, but the local fusion centers, primary contacts are within each one of those agencies. For instance, I know locally where I'm at, our fusion center works directly with our critical infrastructure unit on some of the same things that our other guests have talked about and in conjunction with specifically keys and plans, we put critical information into our CAD system and also share it with our fusion center. For instance, some of the critical infrastructures within our areas may have products that they produce that have certain standoff distances if there is a fire or if there is an explosion or certain security concerns if somebody were to break into that facility. That information is shared with the fusion center who then works directly with our intelligence community, pushes that out in a pretty timely manner and in fact has the access also to push that out to our patrol officers while they're on scene or conducting an investigation at a specific location.

Bill Godfrey:

Don, speaking of pushing out information, I'm curious when we have some of these tragic events that have occurred frankly in the world, not just here in the US but where there's targeted attacks, whether it's terrorism or religious attacks. Do you reach out to the community partners and kind of brief them out, obviously, I know you can't go into specifics, but can you talk in general detail about what you would see as being best practices for sharing information or talking to those community partners?

Don Tuten:

Absolutely. I think each agency has to have that community element, whether it's run through the intelligence side of things through the investigative side of things or through community services within that agency to foster those relationships with your leaders of churches, synagogues, a mosque, as well as the school system as well as private schools. A lot of times private schools get overlooked because nobody wants to take that responsibility on. So that's one thing they have to be made a part of the team for lack of better terms. And it's incumbent upon the agencies that oversee those areas and provide services to them to engage in that two way communication in a timely manner, especially after a significant event in the world to foster those relationships. And then the most critical is maintain those relationships even in times when there's not a critical incidents going on around the country.

Bill Godfrey:

You know, it's really interesting you mentioned private schools, which some of you who work in the office with me or know this, but too long ago, my youngest daughter attends a private school and I had a conversation with the superintendent about their plans and their level of preparedness. Now granted I'm biased and obviously pay great attention to these things. Let's just say there was plenty of room for improvement which we went to work on right away. And to the school's credit, they did a 180 almost overnight and really implemented some, great cutting edge stuff. Is that a problem across all our communities? I mean, Steve or how are you guys up there in your area? Do you see that same problem where your private schools or your daycares and churches may not have the level of planning that the public schools do?

Stephen Shaw:

The biggest reason is because the state schools basically fall under state guidelines. State guidelines have requirements for SRO’s (School Resource Officer). They have requirements for where they keep information as far as floor plans and keys to the school. Private schools don't have those same guidelines and so we see a lot of variants. Some of them want to be prepared, they just don't have necessarily the tools to get there. So we see a lot of variance there. So it's up to individual agencies. It's up to the schools themselves to make sure that those people are educated, that they're current on best practices. And that's one of the things that we try to do with our community services people is try to reach out to these places and make sure that they're getting up to date on lock down procedures, what information they should have, do they know what to expect from responding officers in the event of an active shooter or any sort of critical incident. Making sure that they are aware of best practices surrounding how they do reunification, how they keep track of people. All that stuff comes into play and it's important and it does vary, especially for private schools.

Tom Billington:

And then Steve, if I could jump in. I know in my community there's a big issue with charter schools which received funding from the state but don't necessarily fall under the same rules and we found that some of the charter schools in our community do not have the same plans as the public schools, and so that's another group that needs to get together and talk about how they're going to work together.

Bill Godfrey:

Interesting stuff. Ron, I'm curious, I know I said this in the last one. Obviously you've got a lot of background with schools, but you've spent years running patrol. Who needs to go knock on the door of the school and make that initial contact? Is that something that we should be encouraging more at the line level trying to build those partnerships with these private schools, with these churches and talk to them about the issue? How do we get that done?

Ron Otterbacher:

Absolutely. Most of the public schools have SRO’s (School Resource Officer) or DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officers, whatever there may be assigned to those schools, which is no problem. We can't negate the fact that the private schools may not have it and we've got to do community outreach. Maybe your community policing groups can go out there and talk to them. There are all kinds of groups that can do it. If for some reason the agency doesn't feel it's right for them to step in there, there's also organizations throughout the country that will help and those planning such ASIS International, which is American society for Industrial Security. They've got people that are trained and board certified. Actually they can go out there and help with those assessments too. So if the agency doesn't feel that they should be the ones stepping in, they should have community partners in those organizations. They can step in and also help in those areas.

Bill Godfrey:

Interesting stuff. And I know on the fire side we're having some really serious conversation at the national level about the fire safety codes and the alarms in schools and the fire alarms being triggered and some of those not necessarily being the greatest plans for some of these hostile events. And we're trying to work through those. And unfortunately that's going to take time and there aren't necessarily easy answers in that. Gentleman, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join me this afternoon to talk about this topic. And if you're listening, I hope that you will return and join us for our next in this podcast series, we'll be coming up to question nine where we're going to dive in a little bit more into schools, specifically both public and private, to talk about what is our comfort level with not only their violent event procedures on campus, but also their plans for offsite reunification. Hope you'll join us next time. Thank you.

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