People have stocked “go bags,” “bug out bags,” “get out of dodge bags,” “trunk bags” and more for decades. Back in 2000, at about the same time the active shooter response movement began to grow in response to the public outcry following the Columbine event, the concept of a response kit grew in parallel. As with virtually anything in the world, what should be in a response bag for active shooter incidents is a matter of opinion as impacted by agency policy and perceived need. Whether or not the response kit should even be in a bag, a backpack or all somehow mounted on a vest / plate carrier is a choice limited by agency policy, response protocols trained and, sometimes, duty responsibility of the officer in question.
Several manufacturers now market specific plate carriers or external body armor systems targeted for active shooter response deployment. Built on a plate carrier platform, Armor Express’ Active Shooter Kit was designed for expansion to carry all the gear and equipment you would need when going into the active shooter / active killer environment.
At a minimum
There are a few items that should be in every response kit no matter how you carry it and no matter what your response protocols are, just like every officer working a uniform assignment “on the street” should have an emergency care trauma kit (no matter what you call it) so that a bullet wound or severe laceration can be self-treated. Such a kit should include a tourniquet, pressure bandage, hemostatic gauze (such as Celox, QuickClot or RAPID gauze), a pair of non-latex gloves and potentially a nasal pharyngeal airway (NPA). While having ONE of these kits should be considered mandatory, as governed by space availability and carry method, having more than one is always preferred. We need to remember that once the immediate threat has been neutralized we pick up the responsibility of helping to care for the wounded. Given the nature of such a threat—multiple gunshot wounds—having multiple trauma kits or the ability to treat multiple gunshot wounds is only common sense.
Extra ammunition is something every responding officer should have and although we hate to think about being in situation where that much ammunition is necessary, realistically, we might find ourselves in one. We absolutely cannot, or rather, we should not ever ask another officer for spare ammunition. To be honest, if I’m in a situation so bad that I’ve gone through a substantial amount of ammunition and my partner officers have as well, I’m really not going to be inclined to hand off ammo I might need. As officers don’t walk around with rifles or shotguns all the time, part of the response kit is going to be the rifle and your response kit had better include several magazines for that rifle.
That previous sentence implies that a rifle should be part of your response kit. While it’s easy to assume that as a reality, we often forget about everything that goes onto that rifle that we also have to plan to support. What does that mean? It means spare batteries. No, you don’t really want to have to stop your response to replace batteries, and—really—you shouldn’t. Your rifle should be equipped with either sights you can co-witness through or a set of off-set backup sights. Yes, the backup sights should be permanently mounted and zeroed on your rifle, but they’re still part of your kit.
The list is full of options that are determined by your agency policies, response protocols, and the communications practices that are in place. Some of those items might include:
- A breaching / pry tool of some sort. No, you won’t be able to open deadlocked doors, and shouldn’t need to. However, during a secondary search, if you do find a door with a simple knob lock or an exposed throw, a pry tool can often get you in to clear that area. Another use, all too often overlooked, is as a tool to block a door shut by shoving it into the gap of door and jam so it can’t be opened from the inside if you see the need.
- Rubber door stops or other door block tools can be of use. If you’re moving through an area quickly and aren’t clearing rooms as you go but want to insure those doors can’t be opened behind you once you’ve gone by, a quickly placed door stop can solve the problem.
- Paracord or rope is also good to have. Sometimes you want to be able to tie a pair of knobs together instead of using multiple door stops or whatever else you might be able to do.
- Colored Sharpies are often used to mark doors or windows for rooms. Has the room been cleared? Are there people in the room? Has the room not been checked? If our agency has protocols in place that color-codes all these things, then you need to have the appropriately colored markers for such.
- Colored paper and tape. By itself, duct tape is a great all around utility tool to have. You can use it to cover windows, hold things in place and patch lacerations in a worst-case scenario. That said, instead of colored markers, some agencies use colored paper taped in place rather than markers. If you tape paper in place, it’s not as permanent and a lot easier to remove after the fact. It’s important to remember that once the situation is neutralized and recovered from, we generally don’t want any reminders of it on the scene if it can be avoided.
There are many experts who will recommend plenty of other items to be carried. Multiple sets of flexicuffs, hydration systems, snack bars and more can be found in many response kits. On the one hand, it’s definitely better to have it and not need it rather than need it and not have it. On the other hand, the U.S. hasn’t had an active shooter event that has extended in duration of actual shooting time wherein hydration or food was required.
The bottom line for all of this is that the contents of your response kit should be thoroughly planned and documented. Some of those items have expiration dates. Everything in your kit needs to be inventoried and replaced as necessary because when you need it, you need it. When your life and the lives of others are on the line you do not need to be wondering if you have what you need. That’s too little too late.