Ep 34: Five Common Mistakes

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Episode 34: 5 Common Mistakes

A discussion about five common mistakes in active shooter events response and active shooter incident management.

Bill Godfrey:

Welcome to the Active Shooter Incident Management Podcast, my name is Bill Godfrey, I'm your host of the podcast. Today's topic we are going to talk about five common mistakes in active shooter events response and active shooter incident management. I've got with me three of the instructors from C3 Pathways, Stephen Shaw from law enforcement, Steve thanks for coming it.

Stephen Shaw:

Thanks for having me, Bill.

Bill Godfrey:

Absolutely. We got Tom Billington on the Fire EMS side, Tom good to see you again.

Tom Billington:

Good morning.

Bill Godfrey:

And Robert McMahan from the law enforcement side, Robert good to see you.

Robert McMahan:

Good to be here again, thanks.

Bill Godfrey:

You doing well today?

Robert McMahan:

I am.

Bill Godfrey:

All right, fantastic. So today's topic, five common mistakes. And I'm going to take these in the order of how the response goes and not necessarily which ones are the biggest sins if you will. But the first one I want to talk about, and Tom I'm going to ask you to highlight on this one a little bit, is dispatcher training. Dispatchers can do a whole lot to help you in these events and can help you avoid mistakes if you provide them the training, and this is one that obviously has to be taken care of pre-event. We teach our guys on the ground, our responders on the ground what the benchmarks are that we're generally looking for which is the contact teams are downrange, our threat is neutralized or there's no active threat anymore, we got our RTFs up, they get an ambulance exchange point established and patients start getting transported, those are kind of the key benchmarks we're trying to get them to look at. And it's important for dispatch to know about those, but there's some other key benchmarks that dispatch probably wants to hear to make sure that we're on the right track. Tom, tell us a little bit about those.

Tom Billington:

Definitely. We have to remember that the dispatchers are the eyes and eyes for all of us, Fire EMS, law enforcement, and so dispatch needs to make sure that they are telling everybody what's going on. A big thing's staging location, if a staging is established, where is it located? Who has established it? And we need to make sure that again, law enforcement, fire and EMS know that information, it's put out there, because eventually we want everybody to report to staging and not to the scene. And so getting that information transmitted as soon as possible is very, very important. It's important that benchmarks such as when the first arriving officer arrives on the scene, obviously that's an important benchmark to note. When our contacts teams have entered or made contact with the bad guy or bad people, things like that, having those notes and benchmarks and again transmitting them not just to law enforcement but to fire, the fire guys need to know also, "Hey, the bad guy may be down," or, "Hey, there's shooting going on," or, "Here's the description of a bad person." So things like that, again, just remembering we're all on one team and sending that information to both sides and continually updating it.

And you also want to make sure that we have the elapsed time noted and transmitted to both sides. It's important to know after about 10 minutes letting everybody know, "Total scene time 10 minutes folks." Then, "15 minutes folks, 20 minutes folks." Because many times I've been on incidents that last several hours and unless the dispatcher will remind me of how long we've been there, I kind of lose track of time. And we are dealing with not just the bad guy but we're going against the clock trying to save lives. So having that reminder from dispatch, that cue that so many minutes have passed, is an important part of dispatch.

Robert McMahan:

When I was working, we had this active shooter incident management training and I included our dispatchers in that and I encouraged them to keep that checklist at their work station so that if they weren't hearing some of those things going on, like if we didn't establish staging early, they know what we needed, I encourage them to ask, "Where would you like staging? Where would you like the command post?" To help us remember to get some of those benchmarks done and help drive that incident towards success.

Stephen Shaw:

And a lot of times on scene, those conversations are happening face to face or maybe over the phone but they just don't make it to dispatch, and it's up to the first responders to make sure they're putting that out to the dispatchers to that they know that so they can relay it to other people.

Bill Godfrey:

So Tom let me make sure I recap those ones that you hit. So we want our dispatchers to be familiar with the benchmarks, and as Robert said really, really important that they are empowered to know if we're five, seven minutes into the incident and nobody's said where we want staging, probably need to ask about that. Do we have a command post set up or it's not clear that we do or we don't have a location. Updating information on the suspect.

Robert McMahan:

I think that's important for the cops too because we're typically driven towards getting to the bad guy, but we also have some rescue responsibilities in there and being reminded that, "Hey, we're already 10 minutes into this and we haven't started getting RTFs downrange," or whatever it is that helps rescue those patients, get them to the hospitals, that will kind of help put a little gas on our pedals to accomplish some of those things that help that.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, what we're looking for is all patients transported by the 20 minute mark, and that's from the 20 minute of the initiation of the incident, that's a pretty aggressive timeline and if you start wasting minutes here and there, you're not going to hit that 20 minute mark. So that's I think a really great role for dispatch is to keep that clock every present in everyone's mind. All right, so for the dispatcher training, including dispatchers in training, providing them some education on the checklist, giving them some benchmarks, empowering them to be able to say to whoever's running the scene, "Where did you want staging set up? Can you advise your command post location?" Those kind of key things.

And I think the other one, and I want to hit on this, is that it's really important for the law enforcement dispatcher and the fire and/or EMS dispatcher if you've got three of them, they need to coordinate that back channel stuff a lot. So as information gets updated on the law enforcement channel, it needs to get passed over to the fire EMS side and vis versa. It's entirely possible that fire might get to the area and set up a staging location and if they do we can shortcut one of the other issues which is having more than one staging location, we can shortcut that by dispatchers passing that to the other discipline and kind of coordinating that. All right, so that's number one, dispatcher training.

Number two, getting control of the incident early as part of that initial response. And this really involves the idea of the fifth man, of getting somebody in that tactical position early in the first few minutes. Robert, you want to talk to us a little bit about that?

Robert McMahan:

Sure. The biggest problem I think we have in law enforcement I think is getting our arms around the incident and having some control early on. And every one of them I've been to, there's always a whole bunch of cops running in to take care of the bad guy and they're trained to do that, but somebody's got to get control of that early on so that we can organize our response and be more effective at it. And I think one of the key issues I've seen is upper law enforcement command buying into and trusting this fifth man concept or the tactical operations group. And typically what I see is they don't trust a line level guy to be that fifth guy or to be that tactical supervisor early on in the incident. This position is not about who has SWAT experience or who is the best tactically minded person, this is about getting some control over the contact teams and at least tracking where they're going, what they're doing, so they don't run into each other and have a blue on blue and organizing effectively their response. So they're covering the campus and getting to the threat and starting to provide those security measures so that we can get other things done like get RTFs in there.

I think part of what lends itself to that problem is unfortunately upper law enforcement command doesn't attend a lot of these trainings, and they don't have confidence in what's being trained or they simply don't understand it or don't know it. And I think as upper law enforcement command, if we would dedicate ourselves to this type of training so that we can understand the process and trust the process, I think it would help out to resolve that issue.

Stephen Shaw:

Robert's talking a lot about that fifth man, that tactical position. And that's one that's really key for something like this. There's a big gap between your incident command and your actual officers who are running contact teams or RTF or perimeter. There's a lot of stuff that happens in the meantime, and that tactical position really helps that incident commander to take a lot of stuff off his place to say, "Now I can deal with these higher level issues." Politicians or upper management or whatever the case may be, and let that tactical person deal with the boots on the ground. It's a tough balance because we're so programmed from an early stage, you to the academy, we talked about teamwork, you're working at a team but essentially you're expected to do this job by yourself. You ride around in a car by yourself, you show up to work by yourself, you go to calls by yourself, you stop cars by yourself. And then for this, we're asking you to say, "Look, just pull the reigns back a little bit and see if there's something else that needs to be done."

And it's tough to balance because you want to get in there, you want to address the bad guy, you want to start treating people but at some point once you have enough people there to address that issue, at some point we have to slow down and say, "There's some other issues that need to be resolved here." Some things we'll talk about later like our priorities. Maybe my priority if I'm there 10 minutes into the incident my priority might not be to go after the bad guy, my priority might be to start securing some areas so that I can start treating people. But there's got to be somebody there who's got a higher level view of what's going on this scene to say that, because it's tough for me as a responding officer to look at this big picture and know what to do there. And it's just something that we have to work on in training and also in just our day to day is, incident command is not something that law enforcement does a lot of, we do it but we just don't call it that so we're kind of unpracticed at it. But it's very, very crucial especially when it comes to something as complex and rapidly evolving as an active shooter or a terrorist attack.

Robert McMahan:

Yeah, Steve you and I talked about this just a little bit before the podcast and that we exercise this tactical concept with our SWAT teams and you and I had similar experiences with that where you had a tactical leader that would be running different elements of that swat team, well it's the same concept here only we don't have the luxury of time to wait for that guy to get there and somebody's got to step in and take charge of that early on.

Bill Godfrey:

I think those are really, really good points. And the other thing that I don't want to let get by here is, Robert, you said it doesn't necessarily have to be the tactically minded guy in the first few minutes, we just need somebody to kind of get it organized, and the whole point of this is saving time. It's not that you can't have the first 30 officers rush in and wait for the lieutenant to show up or the sergeant to show up and begin to organize it. You can do that, but it's not going to be as fast as if you organize it before you've got 30 people there. If you can get some organization to it and at least as those guys are going, those guys and gals are going in, get them organized into some teams so you can make some assignments, you can do more than one thing at a time, you don't have 30 people committed to standing over the bad guy that they're neutralized. You've got a couple teams that are committed to that, you've got some other teams that are working on some other things, and so really it's not necessarily about you can't do it the other way, you can, it's just not fast.

Robert McMahan:

The longer you wait to get this done then the more people you have down range looking for the bad guy or doing other things, the longer it's going to take you to organize this and get your arms around it and start to accomplish those other benchmarks that you need to do.

Stephen Shaw:

And it's inefficient. A lot of things happen twice, a lot of areas get cleared twice that don't need to be cleared and then we're leaving other things that have not been done yet. So like that crowd of 30 people running around, it can do one thing very fast but we're trying to accomplish 15, 20, 100 things during this incident and they all need to be done so it's just incredibly inefficient if there's nobody running all those teams.

Bill Godfrey:

Okay, so common mistakes, we're going to rehash them. Not getting our dispatchers the training they need, number one on our list. Number two, failing to get control of this thing early and that's one that falls to law enforcement because they're the first ones in there. And then the number three item is staging, either not establishing staging, having more than one staging area, waiting too late to establish it. Tom, walk us through that reasons about why we need to have one staging area and then Steve and Robert I'm going to come to you guys to talk about how law enforcement can really benefit from using staging. But Tom, can you talk a little bit about why we need to have one staging area?

Tom Billington:

Definitely, Bill. Before I became involved in the active shooter realm, fire rescue we always had our own staging, we did our own thing, and this new active shooter realm that we live in today, it isn't just fire rescue it's fire rescue and law enforcement and other agencies together. And obviously staging is not just a place to park, it's a place to plan and to deploy resources. So it's important that we have all those resources in one staging area, meaning the law enforcement and fire and EMS folks are together so when we go to set up an RTF or rescue task force, we're all together and we have a law enforcement person doing staging that knows the law enforcement lingo, knows the qualifications of the personnel that are at staging. So it's a one team thing that we have to do together. Having separate staging would add so much time and confusion to the incident, it would be terrible.

Bill Godfrey:

So Steve, how important is it do you think for law enforcement to not just have one staging area but to be in the staging area with fire and EMS?

Stephen Shaw:

I think it's incredibly important. A lot of times you're law enforcement, you may know some individual fire fighters, you may know some individual truck teams or something like that at your location, but for something like this you may have people from outside, you don't know these people, you don't know what they have. And if you're paired up on an RTF with these people then you need to get introduced to them, you need to know that like Tom said we're on the same terminology, we're using the same language and all that. So it's extremely important and it even comes down to making sure that our own gear is squared away. It's difficult for me to pull up in my patrol car right in front of a scene and there's something going on, shots being fired or something like that, I have to get my own stuff squared away, my plate carrier, my rifle if I have one or whatever kind of other equipment I have, an active shooter kit or whatever the case may be. That staging area, once we get into the incident a little bit, maybe not when there's shots being fired, but that will help me get my own gear squared away so that I can deploy to that scene effectively.

Robert McMahan:

Yeah, we've talked a lot about RTFs in the training and I've literally seen, and I've been to three active shooter events at the schools, I've seen the medical side of RTF stood up in staging without a single cop to put with them. And there were hundreds of cops on scene, and so I think that's a tragedy because the RTF has got to get into there and start providing advanced medical treatment and getting people out to the hospital. But the other thing, and I mentioned hundreds of cops on scene, every one of these that I've been to we have an over convergence of law enforcement on these scenes, and I don't care who you are as fifth man, you can't control hundreds of cops by yourself and you can't control them after they're on scene running around doing things and they'll be in there doing things for a long, long time and you won't even realize what they're doing or who's there.

And so the staging area is so incredibly important for us as law enforcement to embrace because it's going to help drive a successful incident, it's going to help take time off the clock and it's going to provide us resources to provide other functions that we need to do, rathe than try to figure out, "okay, which 50 cops can I pull out of there to go do this?" You have them at staging, you can make an assignments, assign a supervisor to them and just pass that off to someone to get done.

Stephen Shaw:

And with that over convergence of cops, like I was saying earlier, those cops are mostly going to be in cars by themselves and where do cops park? Wherever they want to. So now we have people that are bleeding out possible and we can't get ambulances in there to transport them out because we have police cars parked all over the place. That staging area allows us to consolidate vehicle, maybe if we're on RTF we just get on a fire truck and then we don't have to worry about all these vehicles that are everywhere. So we can open up parking, we can open up routes for ambulances, or we can open up routes for additional responders if we need to.

Tom Billington:

We're going to see, Robert just backing up a little bit, a big issue also with hundreds of law enforcement officers is accountability and I think staging is an important part for accountability especially for law enforcement. Fire rescue systems usually have good accountability systems where we can usually track down where the firefighter last was if there's an issue or they get lost, but if we have a lot of law enforcement officers down on the scene and we don't know who they are or where they are, we lose accountability, god forbid one of them is injured or killed, it may take forever to find them. Staging is a good point to start having accountability of sending teams knowing what frequencies they're going to be on, knowing where we sent them, and so we have a better way to account for them if something goes bad.

Bill Godfrey:

I think all of this is fantastic stuff. The other thing that it makes me think of is just the general function of staging is to get your crews assembled and assign them a task and purpose. Robert, you were kind of eluding to you need the guns downrange but you need them downrange doing what you needed done at the time you need it done, and if they've already gone downrange trying to get them to disengage and change tasks is difficult to do, especially if you don't even know they're downrange. So the key ingredient for staging and one of the reasons for having everybody together is some of these teams and things that need to be done are going to require cross-discipline integration, we got to put fire EMS with law enforcement, put some teams together and give them a task and purpose. Give them an assignment so when they go downrange they're working on what needs to be worked on when it needs to be worked on.

Robert McMahan:

That's correct.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, so I think that's a huge issue. So when we talk about staging, I think there's several actually sub-bullets under staging is one, we need to stop the over convergence because it just slows us down in the end, it takes us longer to get things done. We need to have a single staging area, not multiple staging areas by discipline, one staging area so that the crews can quickly be organized and then we have an effective method for assigning tasked purpose and sending those resources down range.

So to recap us here on our five common mistakes, number one is failing to include our dispatchers in training and making sure that they're prepared to help us in one of these events. Number two is going to be getting quick control of this thing early on from the law enforcement side, so command and control, which we have obviously through the fifth man concept. And then our third one that we just talked about is staging, the importance of staging, the role that that plays.

So number four is going to be having more than one command post. And it feels weird to even say that out loud, but it has happened so many times. Robert, let's start with you. What are some of the problems that crop up when you have more than one command post?

Robert McMahan:

Well, when you don't have fire and law enforcement hooked together, things start happening and you need the resources that the other one has or you need collaboration on what we're trying to accomplish downrange with both disciplines. And when you don't have them together, you can't do that. And I was involved in a shooting event where an officer was killed, he was missing for a while, and we didn't have law enforcement and fire together in the command post, and when we got the officer rescued, those medical resources weren't available immediately as quickly as they should have been at that point because we weren't working together. And we can't have that, that's just inexcusable. It's inexcusable on both sides. And so especially in a complex event like this where you've got a lot of patients and you got both disciplines working together to accomplish certain things like rescue task forces, you got to have them together or passing information about patient counts, where ambulance exchange points are, it's a multi-discipline event that requires the marriage of those disciplines to work together to get this done.

Tom Billington:

You know Robert, I've been on many scenes. I was actually on a scene where there was four separate command posts and it turned out that they were just meeting places for people that knew each other to drink coffee and it's really unfortunate. And so it's so important to get the folks together in the one command post or at the command post location to work together, because that's another issue. I've been in the command post with other agencies, other fire agencies and they were doing something opposite of what I was doing, which was my fault to. And so again, it's not just a room that's air conditioned that has coffee, it's a workplace whereas a team we need to put our heads together and come up with the priorities of what we're going to do down on the field. It's just so easy to get caught in your silo if you're in a separate facility, but also when you're together it's also easy to stay in your group at the corner and not work amongst each other. So it's important that we pull these issues out ahead of time and work together in these command posts.

Robert McMahan:

I can also tell you where it works well, it really works well. I had a fire chief in Castle Rock Colorado, Noris Croom, I'll just shout out to him, we worked really well together. When Noris and I showed up on a scene, we knew how to work together, we had that relationship and we developed that relationship prior to the incident, by the way. But we married ourselves at the hip and whatever we were working I would as Noris what he needs, he would ask me what I need and we had that working relationship and it was just amazing the difference when you have that relationship and you have that marriage of disciplines together.

Tom Billington:

Well, the big thing is, you just said his name, that says it all right there. When you know the person beforehand on a first name basis, the command post and command operation will go so much smoother, so it's so important, good point Robert.

Stephen Shaw:

One thing that I've actually seen this happen on two different incidents that we had, law enforcement will set up a command post like 50 yards away from the incident and the fire, they're just not comfortable with that. And this is like a shots fired incident. So we have to be careful as law enforcement that when we're establishing our command post that it's not right up on the scene. Because this happened on both of the incidents that I saw, fire pulled up, asked dispatch, "Where's the command post," dispatch told them, fire gets there, looks at it, says, "No way, Jose." And they backed up a block down the street and they just started running their own thing. So we had separate command posts that were trying to work together but they just weren't in the same location. And what happens is, communication becomes almost impossible. You're trying to call people On the phone or trying to call people on the radio where there's a million other things going on and if you're not right there together shoulder to shoulder where I can just tap my fire counterpart on the shoulder and say, "Hey, this is what we need," like I said it just gets almost impossible.

Robert McMahan:

You know, we've seen sadly a number of very significant consequential active shooter events where they ended up, for one reason or another, with separate command posts, whether it was just the way the scene unfolded, the order in which it got done, and they didn't fix it. And I think that's one of the things that almost ought to be a mistake of its own. Look, some of these things are going to happen, you're going to end up with more than one staging area by accident, okay fine, fix it. You're going to end up with somebody who set up, the battalion chief calls up the command post because he didn't like where the law enforcement was. Okay, fine, fix it. Get into one command post. Mistakes happen, that's the nature of the beast, it's what you do with it. Don't let that go on. Just because you've started there, doesn't mean you need to finish there. We talked about this just recently in another podcast, the pain of fixing the problem as soon as you recognize it is nothing compared to the pain of trying to suck it up and continue to make that mistake work.

And I think that's a big one that really needs to be a strong take away here is, you need one command post for all the reasons that everybody here just talked about. And if for whatever reason it doesn't start that way, fix it.

Stephen Shaw:

And to kind of circle back to one of our other issues when we were talking about gaining control early with that tactical position, if I'm a law enforcement incident commander, and I realize that maybe I'm in the wrong location or just for whatever reason my fire people have set up a command post in another location, it's a lot easier for me to tear myself away from that incident for five minutes to drive down the street to meet up with them if I have somebody I trust, like Robert was saying, that's downrange that has eyes on it that can run that scene for the few minutes while I'm gone. So I think that's where getting control early and trusting your people and equipping them becomes super important. Like you were saying Bill, if we realize we're making a mistake, it's a lot easier to fix when we have people who can fill those holes for us.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, that kind of makes me wonder Steve and Robert, the situation Steven was just talking about where the command post ends up set up across the street from a shots fired scenario, is part of that happening because in those cases they're not delineating the role of tactical as being separate from the role of command? And the command post is actually really more the tactical?

Stephen Shaw:

I think that's part of it. It's not a new concept, like Robert was saying we use this all the time in the SWAT world, but a lot of time when somebody starts directing traffic, for lack of a better word, they essentially become the defacto incident commander in law enforcement's mind. We have trouble delineating that there's two different things. You can think of tactical as a forward operation, we're running contact teams, whereas a command post is more of a high level, big picture controlling, kind of a cliched term, but this 30 thousand foot view that we refer to a lot of times.

The other thing I think is we in law enforcement when it comes to things like shots fired or something like that, we have a different level of risk acceptance than fire does and it's because we deal with it a lot more. And it would be exactly inverse if we were dealing with a structure fire. Firefighters are way more equipped to deal with that and have way more knowledge and experience to deal with that, whereas we may be, I don't want to go there, firefighter may be telling us, "Oh no, it's fine. Look at the level of smoke," or whatever. So I think for us, we look at it and we say, "We're down the street, bullets are probably not going to get here." It's just a different mindset I think.

Robert McMahan:

Yeah, I agree. And the big problem, like you were eluding to Bill, is command typically tries to do things that are, they're trying to direct tactical operations and they really shouldn't be doing that. They're getting too far down in the weeds and they're not looking at the big picture and how to support the incident and how to support the resources own range.

Stephen Shaw:

Law enforcement is not used to trying to manage an incident that they can't see with their own eyes. And it's difficult to not like Robert's saying, and the reason why is because you're trying to direct every single little thing and it's hard to do that when you can't see it and it's just something that we have to tear ourselves away from there and think there's other stuff going on that we have to focus on. We got to leave somebody else in charge of this stuff, they can see it, they can run all this little stuff, I need to think about the big picture.

Bill Godfrey:

You know, that's really not dissimilar from the fire service and the fire service experience. I don't know what the number is, but it's well over 90% of the fire service operations are run in a single tier, the battalion chief is directing everything, whoever the incident commander is, directing everything from the curb where they can lay eyes on it. The number of times that you're actually running a fire operation where you cannot see the incident and you can't see what's going on are very few and far between. And while there are a number of people in the fire service who have experience doing that and are quite good at it, they're the exception, not the rule. The bulk of the time it's very, very similar, so I think that's something we actually share across the cultures between law enforcement and fire/EMS, is that pull to be watching the thing, to be up close enough to see it.

Tom Billington:

I think what Bill said earlier needs to be said again, fixing things, it's so important. I remember as a young firefighter/paramedic, we had a warehouse fire and it went on for hours and we had messed up, there was firetrucks parked in the wrong place, there was hose everywhere. And one of our district chiefs showed up, one of my mentors, and he said, "All right, this isn't going to be pretty, let's shut it down and move everything, do this, do that." And we did it. And while we were doing that the fire reared up again. Once he got us in order of where we needed to be, we put the fire out. And it was a hard decision, a lot of people were saying, "This is crazy, look what's going to happen." So Bill, that's such a good point, it really takes a strong leader to say, "Okay, we agree, we screwed up, let's fix it," and then do it.

Bill Godfrey:

I think that's a great point, great point. Okay, so let's recap where we're at. Our list of five common mistakes. Number one is failing to get dispatchers the training that they need to be able to help us in an active shooter event. Number two, getting control of the event early, which is predominantly going to fall to law enforcement, just the nature of the beast. Number three, staging. Not getting staging set up, not having one location and avoiding the over convergence. Number four, separate command posts.

And then our final one, number five, is failing to shift gears when our priorities need to change. So as we set this one up, I'll just remind everybody the priority is, number one the active threat, number two is rescue of the injured, and number three is clearing and return the scene to a time of safety. So active threat, rescue, then clear. But what we see sometimes, law enforcement can have a difficult time shifting gears and moving from the active threat to rescue when there's a question mark about the bad guy. So when the bad guy is neutralized, in custody, down, whatever the case may be, those are usually pretty clean transitions, not really where the problems occur. But when the shooting stops and we don't know why. Did the guy kill himself? Has he left the scene? Is he still on the scene? Is he still at large? We don't have answers to those, there's no closure to it. That seems to me to be one where law enforcement struggles a little bit because the tendency is, "I got to find the bad guy, I got to find the bad guy, I got to find the bad guy." And we can lose valuable time and minutes in shifting gears. Robert, is my perception off there that that's a challenge?

Robert McMahan:

No, that is a challenge. And it's difficult for us because we want to go stop that threat and so much of our training, especially early on is we're always looking for the next bad guy, that there's going to be one more, there's going to be one more, there's going to be one more. But remember what drives us during dealing with the active threat is stimulus. What are we after here? Where are we going? What's driving us? And when we run out of that stimulus it's hard to shift gears. But we also have to remember we've got another mission and that's rescue. We're battling the clock, not just the bad guy. And we've got to shift gears in order to start dealing with patients and start to help them. I think part of what happens with it is we don't have control of it early on like we talked about it earlier, and there's no one there to say, "Okay, let's shift gears." It's okay to keep looking for the bad guy, but we also have some areas that we've already been into that we know that we have patients.

So we can start organizing those contact teams and their roles a little bit better and say, "Okay, contact one you've got this area. You've got patients there, secure that area and let's start working patients there. Contact two, you don't have any patients, so keep searching for the bad guy. You can organize this thing and control it in a way that helps us shift gears and helps us with that change in response when the stimulus goes away.

Stephen Shaw:

Yeah, I agree with what Robert's saying about having somebody there to drive that shift. I think under stress, people are going to do what they're most comfortable doing and cops are most comfortable hunting a bad guy. We're not as comfortable treating patients or counting patients or really if the one thing that we pretty much probably have in common is every mission is important. It may be extremely important for me to hold a stairwell, but for me and my cop mentality, if I feel like there's a bad guy out there and somebody tells me to hold a stairwell, that's going to be a tough pill to swallow.

There was a debriefing that I went to a couple weeks ago about an incident that happened a couple years ago out on the West Coast where actually they had two officers that were killed on a traffic stop. And the incident commander there had just gotten promoted out of investigations, and really, really recently gotten promoted out of investigations. And so under stress she did was she was comfortable doing, which was investigating the scene. She started canvasing the neighborhood and stuff like that rather than searching for the shooter. So I think that's one thing that if we have that tactical person there when we have a pause, shooting has stopped, we're not sure why, we have a pause, there's got to be somebody there to say, and this again tying it back to staging where we know who's there, we don't have an over convergence, we have somebody there to say, "Hey, contact team three, I need you to stop searching and I need you to start securing an area so that we can start counting patients or we can start bringing RTFs in."

It's really important, and like I said just under stress people resort back to what they know. Cops don't know treating people for the most part, now there's a lot of departments that have started offering that training and what not and I think you're seeing some good results from that. But for the most part, we're just not comfortable doing that, we're comfortable hunting a bad guy and that's what we're going to resort to if there's nothing to drive us into another priority.

Bill Godfrey:

I think that's true. And Tom, chime in here as I say this, but from a medical side, so when you look at the statistics on the data of these active shooter events, the median number of people shot in these things is four, two of which are killed. So the typical active shooter event, we're actually talking about a small number of patients and occasionally it can go over that and occasionally it goes way over that. But those are the exceptions, not the rule, you're usually talking about a small number of patients. And I kind of feel like if we can just get one contact team that focuses on getting the casualty collection point set up or just whatever needs to happen, whatever that contact team stuff is that goes on, whatever they need to do to get it ready to receive the RTFs, then the RTFs, can push in with their security and take care of that. Tom, do you see the same thing?

Tom Billington:

Most definitely. And I think again that comes with training. Many times in these classes I'll talk to a law enforcement officer and I'll go, "How many tourniquets do you carry?" And he goes, "Well, I carry one." And I go, "What's that for?" He goes, "My partner or me." And I go, "Well what about somebody that's injured." "Well, no." Again it's just training that while maybe you have the opportunity to save a life and if it's just one or two people, the contact team that focuses on that can make the difference between life and death, that one small point.

And again, getting the RTF in there as soon as possible, we're waiting on the contact team to tell us it's safe, to tell us that that yes they have a casualty collection point. So we want to get in there soon. The sooner that the contact team does that for us, again we're cutting time off the clock.

Bill Godfrey:

So I want to ask, Steve, Robert. One of the things that we advocate when we're doing our training and we kind of tell people this, is that, "Hey, when you go back home and you're doing this training, make sure that your scenarios include one where the bad guy just goes South. The active threat is a ghost and you don't know why." To force during training people to face that and deal with that and get that muscle memory of, "Okay, I haven't had anything else go on for, fill in the blank, and it's time for us to shift gears or start thinking about doing something different." How important do think guys that actually is in the law enforcement training?

Robert McMahan:

I think it's hugely important. And I've conducted some of these trainings with you and I see these guys in training really have a hard time slowing down looking for that bad guy when that threat's gone silent. And they really want to keep looking. But it's not serving the purpose. And here's the thing, if that bad guy's doing other stuff in other areas, we'll know it, we'll receive that driving force information whether it's hearing the shots or more calls to 911.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, more witnesses calling 911.

Robert McMahan:

We will know as soon as that starts, and then we can go respond to it. But in the interim, and I think most events don't go that way, if the bad guy goes silent they're gone, they've gone silent for a reason and they're usually not a threat anymore, but in the interim until we figure out where they went, we do have patients to take care of and we're against that clock. And we say it over and over and over again in this training and in the podcast, we're up against that clock and we're about saving lives.

Stephen Shaw:

The training side of it is hugely important. Again like I said, people revert back to what they know and what we're really talking about is the evolution of active shooter response. Pre '99, active shooters were a SWAT problem and then Columbine happened and for 10 or 15 years it was all about pushing patrol to get in there and address the bad guy. And we got really, really good at getting in there and addressing the bad guy.

Now we're seeing the evolution shift to, all right we're addressing the bad guy but there's all these other things that have to happen and the first thing that has to happen after addressing the bad guy is addressing all the people that the bad guy's hurt. Because we talk about our victims and our survivors having two different enemies during this event, and one is the bad guy and the other one is the clock. And the first ones that are in there are going to be police, so their first medical intervention a lot of times is going to be a patrol officer, and it could be just a patrol officer securing a room and getting a number to someone so that an RTF can come in and maybe like Tom was saying having an extra tourniquet on you. Maybe having a few extra bandages or something like that. But something has to be done, some sort of medical intervention to help to stop that clock or to slow it down.

And so I think again like I said, we're participating in the evolution of the response here from SWAT to patrol and now we're looking at the medical side. And so I think the training side of it you have to enforce those principles, you have to enforce that thought process that just because we're not hearing shots, there's still something I can do rather than just make a room entry.

Bill Godfrey:

I think that's a fantastic summary. So guys, I'm going to wrap this up with just summarizing our list of the five common mistakes. Number one is failing to get dispatchers the training they need so they can help us. Number two is for law enforcement to get control early on via the fifth man or some other type of method if they don't like that one, but get control of this thing earlier. Number three, staging, one staging area to stop the over convergence, make sure we got a task and purpose to get people organized. Number four, having separate command posts, can't have that, need to fix it. And number five, failing to make sure that we include in training the training for officers to recognize when they need to shift gears from the threat to rescue and not skipping over rescue to jump right into the clear.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about this, again these are not the only mistakes that we see by far, but these are five common ones and I thank you for coming together to talk about it.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening to the podcast, if you have not subscribed please hit the subscribe button to make sure that you don't miss out on any future podcasts. And if you have any suggestions for topics, send them to us. Info@c3pathways.com. Until next time, stay safe.

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