Are all the Checklist policy issues listed?

No. The Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist focuses on process and not policy, which is why it works well in so many cases. However, policy issues are unavoidable and will vary from one community to another. We’ve listed some of the significant policy issues on the web site for consideration, but it should NOT be considered an all-inclusive and exhaustive list.

Each agency/community is responsible for conducting a thorough policy review prior to using the Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist.

What about Unified Command?

We used to believe Unified Command was a silver bullet for solving slow integration and response at Active Shooter Incidents. What we found is attempting to establish an immediate Unified Command actually slowed the response for a period of time, then things started happening. Unfortunately, the slow down was very consequential — a 20-30 minute delay in hitting benchmarks.

What follows is an explanation of our position on Unified Command at Active Shooter Events. These comments will make some smile and leave others furious. We understand both reactions. We simply ask you read the entire article before judging.

We are not NIMS/ICS “purists” that believe in rigid compliance above common sense. However, sometimes getting back to the basics and the original intent of NIMS/ICS components can actually be helpful. Most of our team was around when ICS was being introduced to the fire service, and we were all active duty when Unified Command was added as a component to ICS.

The need for Unified Command is driven by multiple entities with legal authority to be in charge of an incident (NIMS). The test for Unified Command is thinking strategically and speaking with one voice through an Operations Section Chief (NIMS). 

When you analyze what is typically referred to as Unified Command at Active Shooter Events, you immediate see some problems in light of these definitions. Obviously, fire/EMS would be hard pressed to demonstrate a legal authority to be in charge of a murder-in-progress or a murder crime scene, but let’s skip over that issue as it’s not the main point.

What is called “Unified Command” at Active Shooter Events is typically a law enforcment IC and a fire/EMS IC who are (hopefully) standing next to and communicating with each other. Both are engaged in operational direction and control of their troops. The two IC’s are thinking operationally, not strategically, and they are not speaking with one voice. What we’ve observed in practice is very little direct communication between the two IC’s; they are just too busy directing their own troops. And that’s a problem. The two IC’s are not engaged in Unified Command. Though they may honestly believe they are a “Unified Command,” they are in fact running two separate command structures and (again, hopefully) standing next to each other. There is not a name for this type of command structure, though our instructors commonly refer to it as “Command by Osmosis” for illustration purposes in training.

There appear to be a number of contributing factors as to why attempting to implement an immediate Unified Command slows down the response, but it is clear that the confusion of two separate commands operating as a faux Unified Command is a contributing factor. Other suspected contributing factors include time to attain situational awareness for each leader inserted in the middle of the ICS structure, communication overload, and a few others.

The Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist DOES NOT EXCLUDE UNIFIED COMMAND. TheChecklist provides a mechansim for standing up — from the first arriving law enforcement officer — an appropriate organizational structure for immediate INTEGRATED response to an Active Shooter Event. Once that structure is in place and the response begins to stabilize, an orderly transition to Unified Command may be accomplished if so desired. The arriving Chief Officers can organize their Unified Command at the strategic level and then accomplish a smooth transition to Unified Command by assigning the current Incident Commander as the Operations Section Chief and assuming Command.


The Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist is built around the Incident Command System (ICS), and the Checklist is compliant with the National Incident Management System (NIMS). 

Law Enforcement (LE) as an industry has been slow to adopt ICS and even slower to embrace it. The Fire/EMS industry strongly embraces ICS and has been accused of being too rigid about ICS, sometimes to the detriment of incidents. Both criticisms are fair, but the arguments lose sight of the greater good that comes from using the Incident Command System.

When a single law enforcement agency puts multiple officers on a scene, there’s no question in their mind about who is in charge on the scene (usually the ranking officer). This argument is sometimes used to demonstrate why law enforcement doesn’t need ICS, but it actually illustrates that law enforcement is already using the ICS concepts — one person is in charge. C3 Pathways Instructors frequently point out to LE personnel that they already have an Incident Commander, they just didn’t use the name.

Using a generic command system becomes hugely important when multiple agencies are operating on the same scene, and even more important when multiple disciplines are operating on the same scene. Interoperability is not just about radios and talking on the same channel, it also very much about communicating in a common language using common vocabulary and terminology.

The Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist uses standardized terminology to enable multiple agencies and disciplines to work together during the response. The Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist also clearly delineates roles and responsibilities for responders.

It is IMPORTANT to note there are a number of known terminology issues between law enforcement and fire/EMS that may put responders at risk of they are unaware. One of the most significant examples is naming the sides of buildings. Most Fire/EMS agencies letter the sides clockwise with the address side being A. Many law enforcment agencies number the sides of the building counter-clockwise with the address side SOMETIMES being 1. Unaware responders could literally end up in the exact opposite position of where they were intended to be.

Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC)

The Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist provides for an integrated response to an Active Shooter Event designed to get medical personnel to victims more quickly and then get those victims transported quickly. This should NOT be construed as a lack of endorsement for the need to provide medical training to law enforcement personnel, specifically Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC).

It is the position of C3 Pathways that ALL personnel involved in responding to Active Shooter Events, law enforcement AND fire/EMS, should be training in the TECC curriculum. The US Military has done incredible work in bringing hard-learned lessons from the battlefield into evidenced-based medicine for use in civilian response to shootings and other traumatic events (e.g. IEDs). One should absolutely NOT ASSUME that medically trainined and certified fire/EMS responders are knowledgeable in the latest procedures, equipment, or techniques. EVERYONE should get the TECC training to a level appropriate for them (e.g. basic training for law enforcement, advanced care for paramedics, etc).

Law enforcement officers will be by a victim’s side sooner than an EMT or Paramedic. It is NOT enough to simply stop the killing. We must also stop the dying that’s occurring from uncontrolled bleeding.

Should a first arriving officer move toward active shooter by themselves?

This is a significant and basic policy issue. There are arguments on both sides of the issue. There are law enforcement agencies who support and oppose a single officer making entry. Policy decision-makers must decide what is right for their community and agency. 

The Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist uses the language “Engage” as the last step for the first arriving officer. This wording was chosen to support the different policy positions that may be adopted by using communities. Policy makers should provide guidance on the actions they want officers to take based on the “Engage” task.

Rescue Task Force (RTF)

The Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist utilizes a process known as Rescue Task Force (RTF) to get medical personnel to victims quickly and get them evacuated. The Rescue Task Force is a cross-discipline team of law enforcement and fire/EMS personnel (usually 2 LE and 2 EMS). This raises potential policy issues about the concept of an RTF, for example law enforcement escorting unarmed personnel into the innner perimeter (aka warm zone). Some are comfortable with the RTF concept and some are not. There are law enforcement agencies who strongly support the practice and others who absolutely do not. The same is true for fire/EMS agencies.

Potential policy issues include escorting unarmed personnel into potential areas of risk, how/when/who will make the decision to deploy RTF resources, whether fire/EMS personnel will be outfitted with body armour, etc.

At the time of this writing, the RTF concept remains controversial. Policy decision-makers from the various agencies and disciplines in a community are strongly encouraged to have an honest and open dialog about the benefits and risks inherant in the RTF concept.