In the past ten to fifteen years we have seen an unprecedented spike in active shooter events. They have occurred in schools, malls, business buildings, churches and more. With the on-going threat of terrorist attacks, the same methodology may be used to attack an entire city as we saw in Mumbai, India. It is imperative that law enforcement professionals in every state and territory - and indeed, anywhere we have a military outpost in the world with a civilian population - understand the proper tactics and techniques to respond to such attacks / events. This training DVD, Active Shooter / Rapid Response from Emergency Film Group is an excellent resource to be part of such training.
I have to admit that, to some extent, I've cheated in performing this review. I was honored to serve as one of the technical development committee members on this project. As a result, I knew going into my review of the DVD program how much information was included, what format and outline was used to organize it, and what level of detail was covered.
It's my personal belief that, all too often, when active shooter situations are discussed in a law enforcement classroom setting today, too much emphasis is put on SCHOOL shootings and not enough on those that occur in other locations. Further, I have long said that many of the tactics and techniques we use to respond to active shooter events are also applicable in the counter-terror / terror-event response arena. Emergency Film Group did an excellent job of including such application for the planning and tactics throughout this program - from the very beginning.
The program opens with information about the active shooter events that occurred in Littleton, Colorado (Columbine); Blacksburg, Virginia (Virginia Tech); Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia (terrorist event); and Mumbai, India (terrorist event). The Beslan school seige is the one that truly crosses the line, blurring definition of what is an active shooter event and what is a terrorist event. The important thing to realize is that the planning and tactics for response to one may be equally applicable to the other.
In the Introduction of the program the types of equipment and munitions that may be used are discussed as well as the tactics and planning that the bad guys may have used. This program is one of the best I've seen at articulating how the bad guys can be better equipped for a confrontation than the responding patrol officers are. Certainly, if the attacks that occurred at Beslan or Mumbai had happened here in the U.S., our responding law enforcement officers may not have been properly prepared depending on what threat level their body armor is rated to and what weapons they are equipped with as a standard.
The program describes the time line of events leading up to and during an active shooter incident. The part that I think needs to be focused on - especially by anyone who feels officers need to slow down and attempt to arrest the active shooters themselves, is this:
The Shooter's intent is to engage multiple targets, killing as many as possible in the shortest time possible. Escape is usually not a priority. Typically, the shooters continue their attack despite the arrival of emergency responders.
That is entirely true and needs to be emphasized. The other thing that needs to be noted is the term "emergency responders." Many AS/RR programs focus only on the law enforcement response. This DVD program from Emergency Film Groups includes the necessity of training building staff, school employees, fire and EMS personnel, etc. That means that this DVD is appropriate and, in some cases ideal, to be used to train groups comprised of members of all public safety professions. When considering all of the "players" that might be involved in a terrorist event response, this DVD might be good to show to National Guard Units and / or civil defense groups.
The program clearly outlines the priorities of responding personnel and forces the acceptance of the reality that officer safety (which would include firemen, etc) is FOURTH on the list of FIVE priorities. Neutralization of the perpetrator(s) is the first priority - as it should be.
As the program moves through the event timeline other planning and tactic options are discussed. Things such as a Facility Incident Management Team, Lone officer scenarios, Command Posts, command and control flow, and more are discussed. Specific tactics for approach, entry, movement, priority of concerns and engagement are all covered. The benefit of having video showing what is being said assists the training program in being clearer in its instruction. A picture is worth a thousand words takes on new meaning when a "picture" is really a video clip.
Post incident responsibilities and actions are also outlined and discussed. Perimeter, personnel, media and other management concerns are also discussed and common best-practices recommendations made. Controlling, processing and "working" the crime scene are an important part of this program. Emphasis is placed on the need for such to be completed in a non-political manner: that is to say, with a dedication to solving the crime rather than putting a spin on it or shielding any person or entity from blame. The purpose of the investigation is not to place blame. It's to insure that all of the bad guys are either neutralized or arrested and that the evidence collected matches the statements given by victims, witnesses and all responders.
The program is available on the Emergency Film Group website. The price is listed at $425 and although that may seem a lot to some, when you consider that a single DVD can be used to train your entire agency, the cost becomes very reasonable on a per-officer-trained basis.