Ep 31: Zones

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Episode 31: Zones

This episode is about Zones in Active Shooter Response and how they help us communicate the threat picture.

Bill Godfrey:

Welcome to the Active Shooter Incident Management podcast, my name is Bill Godfrey. I'm your host of the podcast. I've got with me three of the other instructors from C3 Pathways, Ron Otterbacher, retired from law enforcement. Ron, thanks for coming in, I know it's been a while since we've had you on the podcast.

Ron Otterbacher:

Thanks for having me.

Bill Godfrey:

Good to have you back. And of course we have Bruce Scott, a familiar voice to those. Bruce, how're you doing?

Bruce Scott:

I am very blessed Bill and yourself?

Bill Godfrey:

I'm doing well. And we're thankful to have back Pete Kelting in the house, also with law enforcement. Pete still is not retired, still active duty. How long have you got left Pete?

Pete Kelting:

About seven months Bill, but thank you for having me.

Bill Godfrey:

Thanks for being here. So folks today's subject, we are going to talk about zones in an active shooter response. So we're talking about the hot zone, the warm zone, the cold zone and some other terminology as well. It's a serious topic and one that's there to try to help us understand the threat picture that we're walking into and to operate a little bit better with each other. And I think we want to start with the hot zone. So Pete, why don't you lead us off in talking about that first arriving officer, how we establish that initial hot zone which is also, we're going to come back to this, but also called the direct threat care zone. Can you start us off?

Pete Kelting:

Yeah, absolutely Bill. I mean, obviously the incident's dispatched and our arriving officers are en route, and they're having to make a decision once they arrive on scene. What they're going to declare as the hot zone, either the entire venue or maybe an area that they may have vetted intelligence where the shooting had taken place or that's going to be where they're concentrating their first arriving officer. So it's really important to get that hot zone identified and communicated to follow on officers and dispatch so that everyone knows where they're coming at first.

Bill Godfrey:

So Ron, I mean, one of the things that we teach in the ASIM program, we say to those first arriving officers frequently, "Look, if you're not really sure just go big, make the whole area the hot zone and we'll narrow it down a little bit later." Can you talk about why and what's the thinking behind that?

Ron Otterbacher:

Again, we're trying to identify the zones of operation that lets us know how big the threat may be or how we anticipate the threat from the information we receive, whether it'll be visually, audible, so we're trying to determine what it is. It's easier to shrink down an operational zone than it is to expand it after you've already put people in that area. So we're looking after to say, we are trying to identify safe areas to travel or be as safe as we can and let people know that we may not have a safe area to travel, so they've got to be more cautious as they move into the situation.

Bill Godfrey:

So obviously, and we'll talk about this a little bit more on the fire/EMS side, we don't really want to go wandering into a hot zone, but that is an area where law enforcement is expected to work. How important, Pete, Ron, how important is it for that initial assessment, that initial size up, that initial report to be relayed to the other officers that are coming in right behind them so that they know. Is that important for them to know exactly where that hot zone is and when to be prepared, to have their guard up? How does that work?

Ron Otterbacher:

Absolutely Bill, I think the additional following officers need to have a clear understanding of what that hot zone is and where the first contact team has decided to work and where the second and third contact teams or individual responding officers are going to link up to where the area of responsibility is to stop that threat, because that is still our first priority at that point in time, it's stopping that threat based upon the driving force and the stimulus that we see, hear or are told.

Pete Kelting:

In my mind it's critical. As the first arriving officer gets on the scene, there's only one person that knows what's going on and that's them. It's critical they convey it back to the follow-on responders so they understand that I've still got active shooting, it seems to be limited to this area but I can't call everything clear, but if they don't put that information out, everyone else would right, actually, walk into a zone that could be like shooting ducks in the park.

Bill Godfrey:

Okay. So hot zone, and we want to talk a little bit about terminology for the audience, so hot zone, warm zone, cold zone is the most common three zones that we hear discussed when we're talking about active shooter events. And that terminology largely got adopted out of the hazardous materials response in the fireside of life with the hot zone, the warm zone and the cold zone and normally a nice little concentric circle that you draw a ring around. And we're going to talk a little bit more about how that is not the reality in an active shooter events. But before we leave that, let's talk a little bit about some of the other names that are sometimes heard.

Bill Godfrey:

So in tactical emergency casualty care, TECC, they call that the direct threat zone, which I don't really know that you would need an explanation of that, direct threat can't be much more obvious than that, it's a direct threat, you go there and you're going to be exposed to a direct threat from a shooting, stabbing, bombing, whatever the case may be. Ron, Pete, what are the other terms that you've heard in law enforcement that have referred to the hot zone? That might mean the same thing, but some agencies may call it different.

Ron Otterbacher:

You got the kill zone, pretty simple, self-Explanatory, you've got the funnel of death. There's all kinds of things they talk about and they're all bad, so it's trying to get everyone in their mindset that if I go in this place, I'm probably going to get hurt if not killed. And then again, it gets back to the criticality of these zones and identifying them so people know how to move around in an operation so that they're not as exposed to the threat as they could have been.

Bill Godfrey:

And Pete, have you heard any others?

Pete Kelting:

Generically I have heard folks refer to it as the danger area or danger zone depending on their local response and what they're used to training in. But as Ron said, the point is that you want your first following officers to know that you're still in an area that has a great propensity for violence, either from gunfire or some other type of threat that is facing those first responders.

Bill Godfrey:

Okay. Bruce, how about you, have you heard it referred either in or out of the fire side of things, called anything else?

Bruce Scott:

No, not really, I mean, we've trained in the fire service so long, as hot, warm and cold. It's easily understandable to our partners in the fire service and fire and EMS folks, and since we preach so much integrated response, it's going to mean the same thing to a firefighter if you say this is a red zone, that they know that that's probably not where they need to be. We don't want to be in that red zone and sharing that information early on so those dispatchers can give it to those responding units, the fire/EMS units, to make sure that they don't get into that red zone. So for example, if you say the whole entire campus is a red zone, then we need to set up our initial staging areas outside of that campus area, so that's hugely important.

Bill Godfrey:

Okay. So before we leave hot zone or the direct threat zone, I want to talk a little bit about the fire/EMS role in the hot zone. And that is to say that there really isn't one, they shouldn't be there, there's not really a circumstance, none that I can think of, where we would, for fire/EMS, we would deliberately have them go into a hot zone. So generally speaking, that's a no-go area for fire and EMS. That doesn't mean that at some point in time that they couldn't be in a warm zone and have it turned into a hot zone. So let's talk just a few minutes, if you're fire/EMS and you find yourself accidentally or just because of the nature of the threat... well, for whatever reason, you're suddenly in a hot zone with your security detail. What are the things that the fire and EMS folks should do? What are the things that the security detail should do to try to make the team safe? Who wants? Pete, you want to start off on this one?

Pete Kelting:

Well, I'll even start before that in the sense of local training that your fire and law are trained together and that you practiced your response into a scene and what you're going to do if you go from warm to hot. And there's different processes out there that different agencies use, but that's got to be trained so that if the shots ring out, then your security detail has certain ways to protect your fire and EMS that are in the RTF package. And if that's finding an immediate exit plan backwards or retreating, or into a hard point of cover in a hallway or diving into a room, those things have to be worked out ahead of time in training so that you respond quickly to that change in zone from warm to hot because of that immediate threat that has presented.

Ron Otterbacher:

The other thing is the security detail for that RTF or whatever it may be, whatever you may call it. Their sole responsibility is security for that team. We don't do other things, we never leave that team, we provide what security we can. The other key thing is if that happens, the folks from the fire side need to listen to what they say and react exactly like pizza, we should have talked about beforehand, we should have talked about it just before we deployed and then when it happens, it's not time to question, you do exactly what you're told by your security detail and understand that they're not going to leave your side and they're going to be there to protect you. That's their sole responsibility.

Bill Godfrey:

So guys, is it reasonable to say that it's a good possibility that the security team may elect to hold you into some room that they feel like they... rather than trying to move you out of the hot zone, is it a reasonable possibility that the security team is going to elect to just hold you where you're at or trying to find something close by where they feel like they can stand their ground and let the contact teams go deal with the threat? Or should we always expect to be moving out?

Pete Kelting:

I think it's the immediate assessment of how close that engagement is and that if you need to move to a point of hard cover and in a hallway or move into a defensible room, that's the decision on what you train locally. And it also depends upon the local build-out of the RTF. Is it a minimum of two officers and two fire/EMS, or do you have a heavy package of five law enforcement officers and three medics? It all depends a little bit of what you're training if you're going to make a decision to quickly be defensible and then move out after that, that's a decision for a local jurisdiction.

Bill Godfrey:

I understand that cover does just that, it provides you cover which stops, it minimizes the threat as opposed to move through an open area. If you have to move to an open area, I'm not going to take the package that direction, we're going to stay there, we're going to do everything we can to provide security as we're requesting other resource to come help us and get us out of that situation. We're not just sitting and waiting.

Bruce Scott:

And the other thing Bill that we have to consider is at what point the RTF is in play, are they in the midst of treating folks at a CCP and it becomes warm, and you have patients to consider in that sense too. Casualties that you're trying to treat and continue with your medical care down range, and how do you react to that if it went from warm to hot?

Bill Godfrey:

That makes sense. And I've shared in one of the previous podcasts, my experience, the very, very first time I went through a training session and I started trying to treat a patient in the middle of a T intersection in a hallway, and my security detail was telling me to get off the X, get off the X. And I'm like, "No, I got to treatment patient." And they said, "No, you need to get out of the hallway." And, "No, I need to treat my patient." And then I lost that and got dragged into the room and with my patient. And I'm like, "What's going on?" Well, if you're standing in the middle of a T intersection, there's four ways that people can shoot at you and any number of doors that they can pop out of. And there's somebody already laying there, which means somebody already got shot, which by the way is where the X is, is where the guy's laying that got shot.

Bill Godfrey:

Okay. So that wraps up, I think, pretty succinctly the hot zone and hot zone components. So now let's shift to our warm zone. And the there's a lot of different definitions out there for the warm zone. None of them are wrong, it's up to the local jurisdiction to decide what they want it to be. The one that we use is that there are security measures in place, and it is that simple. Security measures in place, what does that mean? It can mean a whole range of things from there's one cop that's got security there to it's been cleared and there's a detail and a cordon. But what it does mean is that law enforcement has done something to put some security measures in place, and that is now a warm zone or what TECC calls an indirect threat care zone.

Bill Godfrey:

And we obviously want to camp here a little bit on this topic and talk about it because it's a source of some discomfort and some controversy within the fire and EMS community, always appreciating and understanding that. So Ron, let me let you talk, lead us off in talking a little bit about how you would determine that an area is a warm zone, that you've got it to the point where you feel comfortable that a room or a wing of the building or whatever is a warm zone. Take us through that.

Ron Otterbacher:

I think the key is, there's security measures in place. We feel relatively sure that we've done enough searching in that area, moving through that area, that the bad guy's not just sitting there laying and waiting, but again, because it's not 100% certain, we're a little hesitant on calling it clear, but we feel relatively sure and we feel sure enough that we're willing to keep our resources in there and protect the fire resource that may come through there. And again, as we move through a warm zone with our fire resources, those people assigned to that particular security detail have no other mission at that time than to provide security for that detail that's moving through. And I don't know how to say, because if you say you stake your reputation on it, then your reputation may not be any good if something goes wrong, but we do everything we can to keep everyone safe in that area and we feel fairly sure as we move through it that we have the ability to keep you safe. There is no 100% certainty, it could still kick off and go back.

Pete Kelting:

So coming in and what Ron is saying, it's absolutely critical that when we make that transition from hot to warm, that the contact teams or officer's down range can really paint that picture back to our tactical command, because I see so often that, especially in multi jurisdiction response or even a different unit response to an event, that folks tend to not take charge, they're waiting for someone else to take charge of that particular area that they're operating in, trying to stop the threat and then change it to a warm zone, transition down to a warm zone and communicate that back because we've got to get those RTS down range as quickly as we can. We have to feel comfortable that we have enough security measures in place for that to take place, and then that starts the domino effect of making sure that we're choosing good CCP locations, that they're accessible, defensible and we move quicker into a warm zone. When we get held up down range and no one's taking charge to communicate that, you see that clock ticking and we don't have medical treatment being taken place down range.

Bruce Scott:

And I think that part of it is we're not moving into obscurity, we're moving to where another team's at, another team's taken ground. They feel like the avenue they told us to move through is ground they've already moved through and checked, and that gives us a little more assurance that we're going to the right place, plus they're there providing security as we're moving up. It's just not the security team that's with the RTF, you've got other people that are already out there that are providing security as you move up.

Bill Godfrey:

Okay guys, I think that's a great summary. So Bruce, I mentioned earlier the reference to the hazmat and the nice concentric circles, but that's not really what warm zones are like in an active shooter event. Can you talk a little bit about that and explain that and let's go through that a little bit.

Bruce Scott:

Oh yeah, absolutely. And again, just get that out of your mind if you're thinking concentric circles, that's just not the case. We have to trust our law enforcement brothers and sisters as they identify those warm zones, whether it's a pathway into or an area that can be secured and we have that security element with us. That may look more like, I think you described it one time, Bill, is an amoeba. So it could have lots of different shapes and sizes, but again, it comes back to the training as Pete alluded to, and heck it comes back to the trust that Ron alluded to, that says that if I'm going down range with Pete and Ron, they're going to take care of me, they've identified this warm zone, they've got this ground that they can protect and it may be a narrow space into a larger space. And I just have to trust that my law enforcement brothers and sisters are going to take me through that warm zone so I can get in there and do what I need to do.

Bruce Scott:

I don't think it's any more complicated than that, and I also want to come back, just circle back around to, as a fire guy, as a firefighter and a paramedic for a really long time. If I know that I have to have a security element with me, I certainly want to be paying attention to what they say and move when they tell me to move and move where they tell me to move. Even if I've been assigned to a completely different mission, I think that's hugely important and the folks who listen to this podcasts are very probably tired of me saying this, but that's adopt what that policy looks like, get your administrators to adopt that policy, train everybody on that policy, practice that policy over and over again. And that's not just within your single agencies, with all your partner agencies, potentially your mutual aid agencies that may be responding, it's hugely important that we're all talking the same language.

Bill Godfrey:

I think that's a really, really important element that Bruce just hit on. And it's something that fire/EMS really has to understand, that the role of the rescue task force is medical, that's the mission, that's why they exist, that's why they're there. But the movement of that group, the movement of those people in that team is entirely controlled by law enforcement. And as fire/EMS, we don't get a veto, we don't get an override. They're like the safety officer on the fire ground. They say when we can go, where we can go, how we can go and when we can't go.

Pete Kelting:

We see this in our trainings all the time, Bill, we stress that RTS work for triage, they give us our mission, where we're going. But then that coordination that has to happen with the law enforcement element, again, they're going to tell us where to go and what they want us to do when we get there, but the law enforcement element and working through tactical to make sure those warm zones are set up, and then to protect us as we get there. And the movement that happens is just... unfortunately, so many times we end up figuring out the right way to do this on the day that those things, those bad things happen, and if we can take that off our list prior to, I think we're way ahead of the game.

Bruce Scott:

And again, it's done with critical coordination with the people down range, those that can actually see what's going on, they know what's going on. We don't do any movement until they say, "Yes, you can come up here, this is where we're at, this is exactly where we want you at and this is exactly the route we want you to take, because we're sure that it's a safe route to come in."

Ron Otterbacher:

And reasonably sure, right? And we talk about this all the time, statistically speaking as time goes on, active shooter incidents get more safe and which is not the way we were raised in the fire service and statistically speaking, the fire gets more dangerous so we have to understand the difference. Unfortunately, there are no absolutes in this business, I think Pete alluded to that, and the critical thinking that has to happen down range. But again, I think it really comes down to trust and understand that everybody has a role there.

Bill Godfrey:

You know Ron, you mentioned being close to the problem, the people downrange are close to the problem, and I think one of the other things that has to be really raised and it really beat the drum on it, for fire/EMS to a degree as well, but certainly on the fireside with our approach to command and ICS. In the fire service on a fire ground, it is a top-down driven affair. Now, we always say that command is built from the bottom up, that's what the ICS documentation says, we always teach that everybody sitting at this table teaches ICS and teaches that stuff. But in reality, the fire service doesn't build from the bottom up, we get that first unit that gets there and initiates it and then the rest of it is, the battalion chief shows up, takes over and it's a top-down driven affair.

Bill Godfrey:

And there's a lot of reasons why that's okay and why it works on a fire ground, not the least of which is the battalion chief can stand on the curb and see what's happening to the building in the fire and make some intelligent decisions. But that's not the case in an active shooter event. In fact, it's just the opposite. The guy on the curb has the least situational awareness about what's going on inside. You can't see the nature of the threat or the exact location or really even understand the lay of the land unless you've personally got familiarity with the building. And so one of the things that I think is really important to drive home on the fire/EMS side is that this is exactly the opposite of the fire where you have to trust the resources that are down range, you don't need to second guess them. If you don't think they're smart enough to make good decisions then don't send them down range.

Ron Otterbacher:

Or replace them.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah. So that said, I want to talk a little a bit about something that's a sensitive topic here and we've seen it happen in a number of incidents where somebody calls for the rescue task forces and it gets overwritten in the command post. Oh, I'm not comfortable that we're ready.

Pete Kelting:

I'd like to talk about that for a minute.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, why don't you.

Pete Kelting:

I think, and I've had lots of conversations with fire chiefs over the years and I can tell you it's just their nature, they don't want to put people in harm's way till law enforcement tells them it is 100% clear. And I've had sheriffs, I've had police chiefs telling me and fire chiefs telling me, "You let us do our business, we'll make sure the threat is completely gone and then we will move those fire/EMS medical teams into place." And unfortunately, the person that's laying their shot, they don't have that time and we want to just change our organizational culture to say, "We are going to put people into harm's way, into that warm zone, if you will, with as much security and as much assurance as we can, but it's not going to be a hundred percent safe, but we do not have the time for you to completely clear a four story building that looks like three football fields, and folks are laying there bleeding to death."

Pete Kelting:

So we've potentially stopped the killing, but we haven't stopped the dying. That bullet is still in there causing damage and those folks are continuing to die. So we just have to change that mindset of our fire/EMS folks to say, "When we can make this as safe as possible, we need to put those fire and EMS folks into harm's way, into that warm zone, if you will, and begin treatment, coordinating the extraction of those folks and get them on the way to the hospital." I just can't make it any more clear than that, but it's changing hundreds of years of organizational culture that says, "Until you tell me it's completely clear, until my law enforcement brothers and sisters say it is 100% safe. We're not going to commit our resources." And it really is something we have to overcome.

Bruce Scott:

I've known each of you all for a long time, I would trust you if you told me you would do it, everything in your power to keep my grandchildren safe, and there's nothing more sacred than my grandchildren. And you told me you'd do everything in your power to keep them safe. I know that even if something went wrong, you did everything in your power to do everything to keep them safe.

Bruce Scott:

That's the relationship we've got to build between law enforcement and fire service is, we talked about it when we started teaching the command school, it's very easy for me to tell someone I don't know, "No, I can't do this." But if you've got a relationship and a trust built, and I tell you, "Look, I or my people are going to do everything I can to keep your people safe." Then you know that I've given must solemn vow to do everything. And if we've got a good relationship built, you know that I would never do anything to try and harm your people in any way or if I saw something that looked untoward, then we would stop and go a different direction. And I think that's what we have to do and that's part of what we do in this class, we build relationships. That's critical.

Pete Kelting:

Yeah. Bruce, obviously, you know I agree with you completely on that and I think you sum that up really well and stated it very clearly. The one thing that I would add that I would share, we've traveled all over this great country, doing this training for a long time now, over a decade, we've been doing it and met a lot of great people and a lot of police officers along the way. I've never met a single officer, ever, who left me with the impression that they didn't understand exactly what it meant when they were downrange and they said, "I'm ready for the rescue task forces," meaning send the unarmed paramedics to me, because I think it's safe and these people need help. I've never ever met a police officer that wanted an unarmed person added to their scene unless there was a really good damn reason to do it, and saving lives is a really good reason to do it.

Pete Kelting:

And I think that if the word trust has come up several times and it really is, but I think the other word is faith, because we don't always know the people that we're working with, but we have to have faith in each other and in the professionalism. And when there's an officer that says I'm ready for the unarmed paramedics to come down here and start saving lives, I've got to take that on faith and on face value, that that officer who spent six months, eight months going through probation or going through the Academy, another six months on FTO duty, I mean, he's got at least a year of training and before he gets turned. That officer understands exactly what he's saying when he says, "Send me the unarmed paramedics down here." Even though they're coming with security, he knows what that means.

Pete Kelting:

And I think it is ridiculous that someone with rank or a command position would presume from the curb, and quite likely the cold zone area of safety, say, "Oh, no, no, no. I don't think that's quite right." Now, the one exception would be tactical. If the tactical group supervisor, who's running this for law enforcement says to that officer, "I understand your request, but we're not ready to send the teams in, we've got something else going on." That's a different story. But for fire/EMS to override that from the command coast, because they don't have a warm fuzzy, I can't get with that.

Ron Otterbacher:

Unfortunately by the time they get warm fuzzies, more people have died. And I will share with you, in some of the after action reports we've read, law enforcement gets so frustrated by not being able to get those RTS in there and get those folks out that they start dragging them out themselves, potentially putting in them police cars and taking them to the hospital, which has just screwed up our warm zone too. If we start losing that law enforcement element down range that are protecting and turning that into a warm zone, and they start having to do patient movement completely out of the building, and loading them in their patrol cars and taking them to taking them to the hospital.

Ron Otterbacher:

That's a whole nother series of domino effect problems that potentially comes up by us losing some of our security element that may be downrange, and we've seen that time and time again and some of the after actions, you just read them, they just get frustrated that, "Hey, I need these folks in here and I need them in here now." And the hesitancy that happens for one reason or another, whether it's not having the warm, fuzzy at the command level or it is not having done staging right and they have no law enforcement element there to put with their rescue task forces that move them down range.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah. I think we could do a whole nother podcast on that. In fact, we just recently did one on staging where that came up. Before we leave the warm zone, I want to talk for a moment about cordons and the idea of what a cordon is, if you could explain it to the audience, so we make sure everybody understands. And when it fits, when it's a really good idea and it's helpful, and when it doesn't always make sense. Pete?

Pete Kelting:

I'll add to that, and it touches on some of the things we just were talking about. And I'd like to say that I think we're also seeing a lot of progress in the training relationships in building trust and faith, as you're talking about, and I'll share an experience just recently in a local jurisdiction where I was an evaluator, and a newly promoted battalion chief came on scene and was designated as the triage officer and immediately came up to where the tactical officer was at. And as we preach here the importance of co-location between tactical and triage, they were able to communicate that information, although they knew each other and they'd trained together, they are able to communicate that information that built that faith and that trust of where they can operate. And one of the first words out of the battalion chief's mouth was, "Have you identified the warm areas that my RTF teams can operate in, and what are our casualties looking like?"

Pete Kelting:

So they already knew they were on the right track in that sense, and then they talked about resources and is there safety measures in place? And so they looked at the map together and the tactical command pointed out pretty much on the map and the footprint that they were looking at, is here's what we've got in place. So it's a visual that this battalion chief is looking at and that's making them feel even more comfortable that his RTF teams are going to be able to work down range really effectively. Then they talked about getting them from staging to the location that they're being sent to, and then the safety cordons and the resources of law enforcement being in place for those RTS going down range and then after that, predicting and leaning forward that there's going to be an ambulance exchange point set up and that those safety measures are in place with cordons and overwatch.

Pete Kelting:

So those are important things to make that faith and trust come together between the fire/EMS and the tactical, putting that plan together to get everybody down range. And you ask what is a cordon? It's simply that it is law enforcement in place and the way I've seen it done many times is, it's got a line of sight, and you know that you've got enough resources in place, either on the ground or in an overwatch capacity, that you have this warm area that's protected by law enforcement should another threat present itself, that immediate action can take place, but in the sense we're still going to bring RTS down range, although they're coming with security measures, and then we can bring ambulances down range.

Pete Kelting:

So they're extremely important if the resources are available and not tasked and purposed to something else that we can get those in place, that's the best outcome possible for security measures. Now, when they're not so effective is basically if you're trying to set one up without enough resources, because it's almost like a perimeter where you don't have that line of sight and you got holes and you got weaknesses. It's almost more unsafe if you're not sure you've got that in line. There, you have to determine if you're going to use what resource sources are down range to put in temporary safety cordons for an ambulance exchange point bubbling out to make sure that that ambulance is able to come in and maybe escorting that ambulance down with law enforcement.

Bill Godfrey:

Okay. Ron, how about you? You got any examples of when it really works and when it's not such a great fit?

Ron Otterbacher:

Again, like Pete said, if you get the resources to do it, then it works out well, it provides you a secure avenue of travel. And whether it be to move the RTF up to the contact teams where they are and we want to make sure we don't want to just say, "Okay, we got a warm zone for you to land in over here, but as you try to get towards the battle zone. So we've got to tell them the direction they can travel, we've got to tell them, "It's okay to come this way, we've got it secure, but it's not okay to come this way because we're still receiving aggressive fire from this direction." So we got to make sure they know their lanes of operation, we got to make sure our people down range know that they're coming to those lanes of operations, because we don't want to have a blue on blue situation, either a blue on blue and red situation. We've just got to make sure everyone knows where it's safe to operate and how to best operate in those areas, and we're prepared for it.

Bill Godfrey:

I think that does summarize it, I would observe that both of you mentioned the idea of having enough resources. With time, you'll have enough resources, the question is how long? And to me, that's one of the things that jumps up. I think cordons are great when you can do them, because it makes it so much easier to operate. You've still got your rescue task forces, but all of a sudden now you can build them up to a very large teams with a very, very low security footprint because you've got these cordon set up. But if you're operating in a large campus environment or a commercial environment or a big commercial building, multiple floors, you could be so spread out that it's difficult to cover that, Pete, like you said, you've got gaps in the line of sight and things like that. So the question is, how long does it take before you can get those resources in?

Bill Godfrey:

And I think that that's one of those decisions that has to be made at the time, on the spot, given the circumstances, and it's the job of the tactical officer or the tactical group supervisor to make that call and say, "Here's where we're going to go, here's what we're going to do." In conjunction, I think, right Pete? With the conversation with the triage group supervisor, the two of them are working together and they have a conversation. "Hey, can we do cordons?" "Well yeah, it's going to take this long." "Okay, well let's maybe put one or two RTFs down range, work on the cordons and see if we can get both of them in motion at the same time."

Pete Kelting:

It also comes down to priority of operation. You've got to determine what's the most important thing. You may have to forego putting your outer perimeter up so you've got to set cordon for travel and then follow up and put your outer perimeter up. So you've got to make those command decision, that's why it's so important and that's what we teach in this class is, this class is active shooter incident management. It's your job to manage the incident. It's your job to make the most sound decisions for what you're facing at that time and you may say, "It's more important that I have a cordon right now, than maybe have some other part of the operation that's important." But it's not as critical as saving lives at that time, so we create that.

Bruce Scott:

And I can't stress enough that it boils down the situational awareness from tactical command of what you've got going on down range, and to either continue the strategy and the priorities that's been set for the incident or make those minor adjustments with your resources to do exactly what Ron's talking about.

Pete Kelting:

And I think he brought up a good point about it, I'm sorry I didn't mean to interrupt you, is that you can minimize that risk, right? So let's get one rescue task force in, let's get two in and we'd talk about the same thing as moving the ambulances to the ambulance exchange point, right? Let's not bunch up 10 ambulances in the warm zone, let's just get one at a time and get them out then send that next ambulance in. So you can, to a certain degree, minimize that risk before you have these warm fuzzies.

Bill Godfrey:

I think that's a great point, so let me sum it up this way. Cordons are a great tool in the toolbox and they're fantastic when you can get them set up. But that tool may not always fit in and it may not always work so you got to have other ways of getting that done. All right. So we've covered hot zone, the direct threat area, we've covered the warm zone, the indirect threat area. So now let's talk just briefly about the cold zone, which we define as an area where no threat is reasonably expected there. So TECC defines it as the evacuation care area where you can do without limit, what your procedures need to be or whatever medical care you need to provide. I don't think this one's terribly complicated, but Bruce, there's a couple of functions that should be in the cold zone that's so often seemed like they're not. You want to talk a little bit about that?

Pete Kelting:

Or staging, it should be in the cold zone.

Bill Godfrey:

You mean it shouldn't be across the street Pete? Ron? It's not supposed to be across the street from the target building?

Ron Otterbacher:

No, sir.

Bill Godfrey:

No. I thought it was.

Ron Otterbacher:

Your command post, obviously. And if you've decided that you want to put... based on that situation where you have to designate a treatment area or a treatment group, where you don't have enough resources to get them off the scene, that treatment area should be in a cold zone as well. Those are the ones that come to mind immediately.

Pete Kelting:

Yeah. And I think just what you all were talking about, one of the things we quite often overlook is, we talk about a cold zone and where the command post is located or where staging is. But too often, we've seen that it designates between warm and cold sites the goal line, our command post and our staging is like three yards off with the goal line. And then yeah, the bad actor and so forth is 30 yards into the area or has gotten into the warm zone, they're undetected and then all of a sudden your cold zone is not a good place to be that close to the goal line.

Bruce Scott:

I think the key is relatively. And I use an example in the early '80s, we had a situation out in East Orange County, set the command post as SWAT deployed everyone else, and all of a sudden this fellow that they were looking for came blasting through in a car and fired up the command post and everything else. And they were far away, but he had just made it out and they weren't prepared to stop it and he decided to shoot him. Luckily, no one was injured, but again, even though we may call it a cold zone, we're in a life of the unexpected and we've got to be prepared for the eventuality. The other thing we've done is we've changed our philosophy and our position to where anytime now we set up a command post, well, it was that way before I left, but we would always screen the entire area with bomb dogs and make sure that... and this came after the Atlanta situation where they were going to have to follow on responders. So, we take certain steps to do the best we can do and it's relatively safe.

Bill Godfrey:

Relatively safe. We're having a little bit of chuckle about this and we don't mean to belittle that this occurs with some frequency, because there is a very, very serious implication of law enforcement having their command post or their staging too close to the incident. And that's that fire/EMS won't go there. Fire and EMS just won't go there and that's a problem. Because now you end up with two command posts, that's a disaster, you end up with separate staging areas, that's a disaster. And so this isn't something that we're trying to make light of, it is a fairly serious thing to make sure that law enforcement and fire are sharing a command post, they're sharing a staging area and that those things are in a relative area of safety. And yeah. Ron, I think you make a good point. Why wouldn't you have a couple of officers that are responsible for securing the staging area, are responsible for securing the command post?

Ron Otterbacher:

And you should, you absolutely should.

Bill Godfrey:

All right. Anything else about the cold zone that you guys want to hit?

Bruce Scott:

I just think it's important. I mentioned earlier changing our organizational culture. I don't know how many fire chiefs that I've worked with, they absolutely want to be on a fire scene where they can see the scene. In this case, you may not be able to see the scene, especially if you have IDs, you have people that are using rifles, bad actors that are using rifles. That cold zone is significantly, may not be where you see the scene. And again, you just have to overcome that and understand that.

Ron Otterbacher:

It's a giant paradigm shift for all of us, because now we've got to set our positions, whether it be tactical which is closer to the incident, but it's not actually in the hot zone or even our command post and staging at a place where the fireside is more comfortable with being than we've got to understand. In certain areas, if we're at a big fire, cops aren't comfortable being up close to a big fire where you all are near it every day. If we're in a bad situation that involved law enforcement, that's where we operate. But we've got to understand both sides of the equation. And we've got to move back and make sure that as we set things, it's a place where you're more comfortable because if you're not, you're not going to be there and then our situation fail.

Pete Kelting:

And it might be a topic for another podcast, but we've also come a long way in a use of technology that when our command post now, a lot of times in a cold zone, we have the ability of the down link from the helicopter. We're starting to see drone usage in surveying tactical downrange operations and that information being able to come back to our command post or come back to our tactical command. So we're really making progress in those areas too, to keep us from becoming complacent or stepping somewhere where we shouldn't be just trying to glean some information that we could get it some other way and still remain safe.

Bruce Scott:

Absolutely. I think it's also important to say, "If it's wrong, fix it." If the command post is in the wrong spot or staging is in the wrong spot, yes, it's going to take us a minute to unscrew this up, but you got to fix it. You can't continue to pile on doing it the wrong way or in an area that they're under potentially direct threat. You have to fix it. And if we do it right to begin with, we don't have to fix it.

Bill Godfrey:

And Bruce, I couldn't agree with you more. The pain that you'll feel to fix it is nothing compared to the pain you're going to feel after the fact and in the after action report if you don't fix it. Because you're going to find out there was all things that went wrong that would not have gone wrong if you had taken the time to fix it. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining me today to talk about this. Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you enjoyed the show. If you have not subscribed to the podcast, please click that subscribe button. And until next time stay safe.

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