Episode 01: Common Misconceptions

Episode 1

Jul 2, 2018

Duration: 17:40

Episode Summary

Discussion of common misconceptions in Active Shooter Incident Management (ASIM)

Episode Notes

Episode 01: Common Misconceptions

Discussion of common misconceptions in Active Shooter Incident Management (ASIM)

Bill Godfrey:
Welcome to our discussion of active shooter incident management. Today, we've got with us Stephen Shaw, sergeant from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Adam Pendley, assistant chief with Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. Mark Rhame, retired fire chief from Deltona, Florida and Orange County, Florida. And Joe Ferrara, also retired fire chief from Martin County, Florida.
My name is Bill Godfrey, also retired fire chief and your host this afternoon. And our question today is what do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about active shooter incident management? Adam, why don't we start with you? What's on your mind about the big misconceptions that you seen on the law enforcement side or the dispatch side?
Adam Pendley:
I think one of the misconceptions is this idea that it's entirely the first responder, the police officer, fire, EMS and that is definitely an important role. But I think it's important to remember that all the active shooter incidents start in the 911 center. That initial recognition of an active shooter event is so important and that initial intelligence gathering. And getting the right resources dispatched is so important to the ultimate success of managing an active shooter event. Not only does it start there, but as the first responders arrive on scene and they're giving those initial report backs, and follow on responders are dispatched. In a lot of training that you see for active shooter incident management, you don't see dispatch integrated into the training and response.
I just think that's an important thing that must be addressed as we move forward to try to manage these active shooter events.
Bill Godfrey:
Steve, what do you think on the law enforcement side. Adam obviously addressed something near and dear to all of us on the comm side. What jumps out at you on the law enforcement side?
Stephen Shaw:
I think the biggest thing after Columbine, the focus was so much for law enforcement. The focus was so much on going after the threat and neutralizing the threat. I've actually been told in active shooter training that the incident management aspect of it will take care of itself. Someone will come along, a chief, a captain, someone like that who will come along and take care of that. So your average first line supervisor, especially does not put a lot of thought into there needs to be a command and control aspect within the first five minutes of an active shooter event that's set up very quickly.
I think that's one of the things that as ... on the law enforcement side, during training, we focus so much on going after the threat and neutralizing the threat and then we just kinda stop our training there. We don't get into reunification. We don't get into press briefings. We don't get into where are we gonna send all of our injured people. I think that's one thing that's missing from the law enforcement side is just the ... we don't practice that incident management side of it enough.
Bill Godfrey:
It kinda stops with the bad guy down?
Stephen Shaw:
Correct.
Bill Godfrey:
Yeah. Joe, what's your perspective on the fire EMS side?
Joe Ferrara:
Well, I think, from a fire and EMS perspective, we do command really well. We do incident management well and we assist our law enforcement brethren with that. The part where I think fire and EMS has a hurdle and we need a paradigm shift is we're all trained that the scene is not safe. So we're gonna stage and wait for law enforcement to clear the scene. That doesn't work in active shooter incidents. People are gonna bleed to death. We need to get in there. We need to work with our law enforcement partners. We need to form our rescue task forces, go in as a security bubble and get the job done.
We don't need to wait for a half hour, an hour. People don't have that kind of time. So, the shift that's occurring in the industry is that we as fire and EMS professionals, we need to train on the rescue task force concept. Work together with law enforcement to move in, get the patients together. Get them on ambulances and get them to the hospital.
Bill Godfrey:
Mark, what about you?
Mark Rhame:
I agree with Joe. If you went back 30, 35 years ago in my career, we used to go into scenes that were today considered unsecured. We literally would just go in under the belief that we could handle anything. Even without law enforcement presence, we would just respond into the scene and then we went. We flipped it 180 degrees where we started staging out. And it got to the point that we were staging out for so long that you were kinda wondering is the scene actually still active or not? Because we would be out there for 20 or 30 minutes, just sitting so far away. Not knowing what's going on. With little to no communication.
This program that we're in right now with active shooter incident management allows us to get together very, very quickly. Develop those game plans. Not put our fire and EMS people in harm's way per se, but to get them in there as quick as possible, so we can save those lives. It's a better process than what we've been doing for the past 10 or 15 years.
Bill Godfrey:
That you brought that up is kinda interesting. This kind of parlays into some of the challenges with integrating the response. Each of the disciplines, law enforcement, fire, EMS, they do a good job in their own right, but in active shooter it gets kind of challenging for us to execute our missions because we have to so closely rely on each other. What do you think are some of the things that you've seen, the trends on the integration side or the challenges that lie there? Tag that into your thoughts.
Mark Rhame:
The problem is that nationwide, as we travel around the nation, you're seeing it's not ... we're not up to that point where we are integrating. There are some departments that are practices on a regular basis. We have some people here with their own department that do that whenever they do stand bys. They'll actually put rescue task force together and it creates a great environment for those events that are planned.
What you're seeing out there is you still have that silo effect. You have firefighters, EMS departments and law enforcement that believe they do an excellent job on their own. But when they put them on the same page or put them together, they don't play well with each other. That's what we need to bridge. We need to get these people in there where they can at least start talking about how we can get together and form these teams and form a command structure that is us working together instead of apart.
Bill Godfrey:
Adam, he mentions the silos and we've had some incidents where because the responders on the scene didn't get together in a command post, they ended up siloing their communications and actually using dispatch as a go-between. How big of a challenge do you think that still is in the country? Where are the gaps? What's the road we still have to cover?
Adam Pendley:
Well, I think one of the things that Mark pointed out is that the responders work well together. Police and fire and EMS if you put them in the same room, they work well together. What I think, where I think we fail is that as that moves up the chain of command, you lose something in policies that allow that integration to really work. And you lose a command staff presence where there's ... it starts getting managed in different directions. The silos happen at a higher level. It's like where most incidents fail is at the management level. Not so much at the ground level. The first responders, they want to save lives. If you don't have policies and you don't have conversations and you don't have a command element that works well together and all moving in the same direction. I think that's where it fails.
On the communications side, again, I think if all levels train together, both from the first responder level, through dispatch and then all the way up to the command level, I think you start to bridge some of those gaps.
Bill Godfrey:
So what Adam is talking about, Stephen, kinda flows with some of the challenges we've seen with people kind of feeling like unified command is the magic bullet. We're gonna operationally direct the troops from the unified command post. Do you still see that as a problem out in the field. Do you see that that's an area that we need to work on?
Stephen Shaw:
I think it depends. You certainly see on big scenes, police, fire, EMS really want to work together in a unified command. On smaller scenes, people still tend to do the silo thing. Police are off doing their thing. Fire is off doing their thing. Maybe fire and EMS coordinates a little bit or police tell the firefighter, "Hey, I need you to come over here and help me out with this." But I think where we would start turning a corner real world is if we started working together on even smaller events. If police and fire are at the same place, then the police and fire commanders need to be hooked up. And that's something that I see in my area a lot.
We still tend to do the silos a lot rather than working together. When we have these big events, like I said. Large structure fires, large crowd management events, you see them working together but on smaller events that we do day-to-day, I think we could definitely use a little bit more integration.
Bill Godfrey:
So, Joe, how do we fix it? How do you think we address some of those challenges and get people to see a better path forward? Or a quicker path forward?
Joe Ferrara:
As Stephen said and I certainly agree. In the fire service, when we started doing incident command, we did it on every incident. No matter how minor the incident was, we set up command. We named the command. We used the titles. But it didn't happen overnight. It took years and years of conditioning to do that, to do that sort of training. So I think together with law enforcement, like Stephen said in his jurisdiction, they're doing that on the smaller incidents and the law enforcement leadership is getting together with the fire and EMS leadership. They're running a unified command. Really, that's the only way. So as an industry, we need to push that with our partners so that when fire goes back and they leave these classes. Law enforcement goes back to their respective jurisdictions, then they sit down and they go, "Okay."
Maybe you're not gonna do it every time. Pick a Tuesday, like we used to do in fire. We'd pick triage Tuesday. On triage Tuesdays, everybody got a triage tag. So if we're gonna do that with these, let's pick a day. Let's pick a time when on an incident where law enforcement is there and fire is there, we're gonna get together on incident command. And we're gonna run this incident.
Adam Pendley:
Absolutely. I just want to extend on what he said is that it's in addition to the command element. It's a unified effort. So as you get closer to the life-saving in the area around the warm zone and tactical and triage and transport issues that happen so close to the life-saving, that is a unified effort. As you get into the command post, when you're talking about the misconceptions for active shooter, law enforcement is gonna remain in command of the scene probably longer than people realize. That's okay. As long as the fire EMS element is there, standing shoulder to shoulder with the incident commander that is most likely law enforcement for a good period of time when the incident starts. But there's still a unified effort there. There's still a medical branch happening. There's still other things happening that move in the same direction.
What's interesting about that is, we mentioned large fire scenes. We've done that for years on a large fire scene, the fire commander is the incident commander for a lot longer into the incident than law enforcement would be. We're not really in a unified command mode when we roll up on a large structure fire, let's say. We're doing the law enforcement branch. It's still a unified effort and it's just the roles are reversed a bit in an active shooter. I think it's important to realize that the actual incident command may rest with law enforcement a little longer than we realize. Eventually, once the unified effort is in place and the incident slows down a little bit, then we move more into a unified command element. I think that's kind of important to recognize.
Stephen Shaw:
I think too, talking about the command post being there for a long time, especially on the law enforcement side. As law enforcement officers, just as a nature of the culture of our job, we tend to really get down into the weeds. And we really want to. We have trouble letting go of any sort of responsibility. So if you're an incident commander, it's important for you to delegate some of that responsibility off to ... if you're a captain and you show up, you're the IC. Delegate some of that stuff off to your sergeant or your lieutenant so that you're not doing everything by yourself.
If you're too far down into the weeds, you're not doing your job right as an incident commander. It's your job to look big picture. Eyes up. We talk about a 30,000 foot, 50,000 foot view. But you have to keep your eyes up and forward, looking at challenges that may come down the road, not just ones that we're dealing with right now. But anything that we can foresee, that we can easily foresee down the road is something that's an incident commander's job is to look at those events rather than focus so much on what's going on in the present.
Bill Godfrey:
Yeah. It's an interesting point that Steven raises, Mark. When we teach in the active shooter incident management course, we divvy up the roles and responsibilities. There's the command post has some significant roles and responsibilities but the actual running or the management of the down range stuff is really done at that tactical triage and transport level. I know you're frequently one of the incident command post coaches. Why do you think that that matters so much? That splitting up of those roles and responsibilities. Why isn't it okay for command to just run everything from themselves directly?
Mark Rhame:
I think what a lot of people don't realize even in our industry, in public safety. They don't realize that there's a lot that's gonna happen on that command incident command level. They're at that 50,000 foot level and they're handling a lot of issues. Anything from dealing with their own bosses, with politicians. Dealing with school administrations or public safety ... or public place management. They gotta deal with those people. They gotta make sure they got the right resources there to be successful in this event.
When you get down to that tactical level, where you have a triage and a transport stood up, those people are worrying about that hot zone. That immediate threat area. That's what they're dealing with. Unlike incident command, who's really looking at such a bigger picture and they're dealing with those big events that they have to deal with on a regular basis.
Bill Godfrey:
Adam, what do you think? With what Mark is describing there, how does that become impactful for law enforcement? Because they obviously have, as Mark said, you've got the hot zone. You've got the warm zone. You've got that immediate scene down range where you have to neutralize the threat. We've got to provide rescue to the injured and get them off the scene. But from a law enforcement mission, there's a whole lot more to it?
Adam Pendley:
Absolutely. A lot of your active shooter training is all that down range stuff. We teach a lot about how to neutralize threats and to begin rescue and do those sorts of things. But we forget the fact that everyone is coming to this event. City leaders, other stakeholders, other agencies, federal agencies, so I think it's command's most important job is to be that next layer away from the scene to act as a buffer against all of that stuff that may interfere with the actual life-saving that is happening down range. If you allow everyone that's responding to this terrible event in your community to make it all the way down to the edge of where the life-saving is happening, they're going to get in the way. There's going to be ... you're gonna interfere with the actual life-saving.
So let those first responders who know what they're doing. Have a unified effort of life-saving at the tactical triage and transport level. And then the command post should be that extra layer of management that's gonna be looking outward to everything else that's gonna be pouring in on you because you've had this terrible tragedy in your community. Like Stephen said, it doesn't just stop at when the patients are transported. You're looking at days if not weeks' worth of management that's going to continue and you start that early at the command post level, looking outward.
If everyone's focused on trying to do the life-saving job, then you have an entire incident management team focusing on one objective. You have many, many more objectives that are falling in on you.
Bill Godfrey:
That really sums it up pretty well. I think, paints the picture pretty nice. Guys, thanks for taking the time to sit down this afternoon and kinda talk about this. As we've been discussing, we're gonna grapple with this and a lot more questions as time goes on. Adam, Mark, Joe, Steve, thanks for taking the time. Hope you all enjoyed it.

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