9-1-1 Communicator Response to the Active Shooter
The shootings at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech University, Aurora Theater, Sandy Hook Elementary, and the Pulse Nightclub have required public safety agencies small and large to analyze their abilities to respond to these events. Consistently, there have been 125 people killed each year in active shooter events in the United States and many more injured. Research by the Department of Justice found that active shooter events have increased 600% since 2009 and the lethality of these events has increased 150%.
Universally, every active shooter event has demonstrated that 9-1-1 communication centers will quickly be overwhelmed at active shooter events. At the 2007 Virginia Tech Shooting, three dispatchers handled 2,027 emergency calls. At the 2012 Aurora Theater Shooting, 13 dispatchers handled more than 6,000 emergency calls. At the 2013 Paramus, New Jersey mall shooting, so many 9-1-1 calls were received that Paramus 9-1-1 had to transfer calls to five New Jersey counties, the NYPD, and the State of Pennsylvania. Numerous after-action reports have found similar problems with 9-1-1 communications at active shooter events.
This presentation explores multiple challenges faced by 9-1-1 centers at active shooter events, including overwhelming calls, inconsistent information, triaging calls, questions to ask callers, the concept of “stale information”, the use of social media to locate victims, and more. This presentation will also discuss priorities for police, fire, and EMS personnel as well as the need for integrated response using the Rescue Task Force model.
Threat Suppression staff led the development and implementation of one of the nation’s largest joint public safety active shooter response protocols in a metropolitan city in the Southeast. Our staff also organized and led 75 large multi-agency active shooter exercises testing joint public safety response. In addition, we have conducted large-scale 9-1-1 active shooter surge drills to discover methods to increase effectiveness of the 9-1-1 system. Our staff will discuss many of the lessons learned from the development, implementation, and testing of active shooter response. This presentation utilizes numerous 9-1-1 calls and radio traffic recording from multiple events.
Our staff members have also responded to a reported active shooter event at a mall crowded with 18,000 shoppers on Christmas Eve, 2015. In addition, one of our staff members served as a 9-1-1 communicator in the Washington, D.C. area during the 9/11 attack at the Pentagon. He worked to coordinate a massive mutual aid response from his county to the Pentagon.
Our staff have trained more than 60,000 public safety providers from local, state, and federal agencies in active shooter response. Our staff have spent more than 15,000 hours researching active shooter events. One city required this class for all 400 communicators. Following a reported active shooter event, the communication center director stated, “The event happened exactly like they said it would in training. It was almost like the callers were following the course outline”.