Public Safety Communications - January 2014 - 34
Pre-Arrival Instructions for
Active Shooter Events security
backBY BOB SMITH
n Sept. 16, 2013, an armed assailant opened fire in a facility at the
Navy Yard Complex in Washington, D.C., killing 12 and injuring three.
With the passing of several weeks, the
nation progressed from shock and surprise, to grief and anger, and finally to
asking how and why.
Tragic incidents such as this lead us to
ask many questions-it's human nature.
For dispatchers and telecommunicators,
the questions are not necessarily ones of
"how" or "why," but "what would I have
said if I had taken that call?" Though
many telecommunicators go their entire
careers without handling an active shooter
situation, the key to knowing you'll be at
your best is to prepare for the worst.
Many of the immediate questions to face
after a mass-shooting revolve around
ground checks and physical security.
Some of the conversation will be the
traditional Monday morning quarterbacking we are familiar with in the
media and elsewhere. Some of it will
attempt to ascertain valuable information about what happened, what policies
worked and what didn't. The lessons
learned will be integral to evolving
response procedures for active shooter
incidents-incidents that no longer ask
the question "if," but "when."
Unfortunately for the 9-1-1 industry,
many of the lessons that can be learned
from this event will not be available for
some time. The 9-1-1 recordings of calls
for assistance placed from inside and
around the facility are typically held as
evidence for weeks or even months, if
they are released at all. But most of us in
this line of work already know what we'll
hear when the tapes are made available.
There will be multiple calls from multiple people who are spread throughout
34 PUBLIC SAFETY COMMUNICATIONS
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the building, as well as outside.
Most will be on cellphones. A few, most
likely tucked in an impromptu hiding
spot, will be on landlines.
They'll report shots fired, a shooter
in the building, people hurt, people
screaming. Some won't really know
what's going on. Some will know exactly
what is happening and the severity of
the situation. There will be reports of
one shooter, of two, of three. There will
be multiple calls with the consistent
themes of fear, confusion and chaos.
But through it all, one thing will ring
true of nearly every caller. They will all
want the answer to one question: "What
do I do?" And just like every other call
we take in our day-to-day operations, it
is our job to answer that question and
tell them what to do. We call it prearrival instructions; they call it a chance
Pre-arrival instructions are nothing new
to the 9-1-1 industry. We've used them
in some form or another since the late
'70s or early '80s. Most commonly, they
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Public Safety Communications - January 2014