Active shooter standard advocates whole community approach
NFPA 3000 provisional standard brought EMS, firefighters and law enforcement together to tackle interagency training
By Becky Lewis
An emergency medicine provider who responded to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A police officer wounded 15 times in a 2012 shootout at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. A battalion chief who responded to the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas in 2017. Their stories form three of the threads that helped weave the content for NFPA 3000 (PS): Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, a new provisional standard from the NFPA and its associated resource and educational materials.
NFPA has shared stories from Richard Kamin, an emergency medical services provider with UConn Health; former Lt. Brian Murphy of the Oak Creek Police Department; and Craig Cooper, Special Operations Battalion Chief with the Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Department in educational videos. The videos focus on their experiences and how having a standard for responding to active shooter incidents could benefit an entire community in the event of a future incident.
The three also share something else in common: all three served, along with other stakeholders in the first responder community, on the committee that drafted and finalized the quick-turnaround provisional standard in response to the increasing number of active shooter incidents in the United States (the document’s “provisional” status means the association accelerated its development in response to an urgent need, and once it was published, NFPA immediately began the process to develop a revision that will be released in 2020). The new standard defines requirements for communities to use in establishing a unified planning response and recovery program in the event that an active shooter incident occurs.
According to John Montes, NFPA emergency services specialist, the first responders conducting an after-action review of the 2016 shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub realized that although any number of professional organizations had written guides and white papers on preparing for an active shooter, no nationwide standards for such preparation existed. Fire Chief Otto Drozd III from Orange County brought a request to develop such a standard to NFPA in October 2016, and NFPA started its standards development process shortly thereafter.
“When we get a request to develop a new standard, we open it for public input as to whether we should follow through,” Montes says. “Normally we might get 10 to 20 responses. With this, we got 157, and 97 percent of those were in favor of the standard. In the next step, we got 103 applications to join the committee, the most ever.”
From that pool, NFPA selected 55 members for a “doubly balanced” panel; that is, membership had to include a balanced number of individuals from user categories such as special expert, manufacturer and laborer, as well as a balanced number from each of the various stakeholder groups such as fire, EMS, law enforcement and medical services.
“We got to know a lot of new faces, because we had a number of people involved in this effort who had never been part of developing an NFPA standard before. All of them took it very seriously and seemed to enjoy the process we use,” Montes says. Following the selection of members in April, the committee held its first meeting on June 12, 2017, the one-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting. On Sept. 30 of that year, the committee held its last meeting before releasing the draft document for public comment. The Harvest Festival shooting took place the next day.
The Las Vegas incident was one of 30 active shooter events (defined by the FBI as four or more persons killed) that occurred in 2017. Because of the increase in the number of incidents and their severity, the technical committee requested that the NFPA Standards Council bypass the second round of public comment and release NFPA 3000 (PS) early as only the second provisional standard in the association’s 122-year history.
The final provisional standard became available on May 1, 2018 on the NFPA website, where anyone can create a profile and view the document for free (as can be done with all NFPA standards). Fact sheets about the standard, related blog entries and the above-mentioned videos also can be accessed at no charge, as can two additional videos, one a brief overview and the other a more detailed narration of a PowerPoint presentation on the standard’s content.
For law enforcement professionals wondering why they would join a “firefighters’ association,” Montes points out that although “fire protection” is in the name, approximately two-thirds of NFPA’s 300-plus codes and standards pertain to other safety challenges including building, industrial, engineering, electrical and other focus areas.
“With this particular standard, law enforcement definitely had an opportunity to bring their needs to the table and have an equal voice in developing the standard,” he says. “Too often, fire, EMS, law enforcement and other first responders train and work in their own silos. The nature of these incidents dictates that all of the stakeholders must work together under a unified command. If nothing else, this standard presents an opportunity for a police chief to go to the local fire chief and say, ‘There’s a standard out there about how we can develop a plan on how we’ll work together, let’s get together and do it.’ ”
What’s in the NFPA 3000 (PS) Standard?
NFPA 3000 (PS) addresses all aspects of community response to an active shooter, from identifying hazards and assessing vulnerability to planning, resource management, incident management at a command level, competencies for first responders and recovery. It applies to all communities regardless of size or geographic location.
The standard is based on four main principles: unified command, integrated response, planned recovery and whole community involvement. In interviews published in the May/June 2018 NFPA Journal, technical committee members share experiences with active shooter and other hostile events, tying them back to those principles to show both what went well and what didn’t. Those lessons learned helped inform the development of the standard.
NFPA 3000 (PS) is about:
- Developing a common language
- Preparing for a faster medical response
- Involving law enforcement in first aid and triage
- Allowing EMS personnel into the warm zone
- Recognizing that people and businesses that are not directly involved in an incident are still connected and affected, and that community recovery takes months and years
NFPA 3000 (PS) is not about:
- Mental health issues
About the author
Becky Lewis has written professionally for nearly 40 years, the past 12 as a technical writer/editor with the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center System and its Justice Technology Information Center. She writes for SchoolSafetyInfo.org as well as for TechBeat.