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Crisis Response Journal Crisis Response Journal

Active shooter and hostile event summit

Posted on 17th March 2016 at 10:48am

Earlier this year the United States’ InterAgency Board (IAB) convened the Active Shooter and Hostile Event Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Metropolitan Police from London, UK, was invited to take part, writes Brian Dillon

There is a pervasive and common threat of incidents involving hostile, active shooteres, which has manifested in numerous countries, as seen recently in Indonesia, France, the Ivory Coast (above) and the USA (E Mbengue/Rex)

The United States’ InterAgency Board (IAB) is a collaborative panel of emergency preparedness and response practitioners from a wide array of professional disciplines that represents all levels of government and operational, technical, and support organisations.

The IAB receives funding from various federal departments that play a role in emergency preparedness and response. This funding supports an annual work plan that looks to address a wide array of issues, problems and challenges facing the emergency response community. IAB members work collaboratively across disciplines and levels of government for the purposes of making the first responder community more efficient, effective and safer.

The main benefit of the IAB is that it provides a structured forum for the exchange of ideas to improve preparedness and promote interoperability and compatibility among local, state, and federal response communities. Based on direct field experience, IAB members develop performance criteria with agreed protocols for all hazards and incident response. This is then tested and trained to fine tune agreed protocols. The IAB also informs broader emergency preparedness and response policy, doctrine, and practice.

In January 2016, the IAB convened the Active Shooter and Hostile Event Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina; this was the second event held on this theme following the first conference in March 2015.

The London Fire Brigade has a long established relationship with the IAB, but the liaison with New Scotland Yard is less well developed and this was an opportunity to rectify that anomaly.

The Metropolitan Police was invited to present on the London counter-terrorism experience. The IAB has a deserved reputation for excellence and using subject matter experts to promote best practice, so we were honoured to speak before such a distinguished group of leaders from across the USA. Our American hosts were characteristically hospitable and generous in their time, affording us ample opportunity to present.

We covered counter-terrorism exercising as the IAB was keen to for us to present on the Strong Tower, the 2015 large-scale national test of the UK’s response to a marauding armed attack (see CRJ 11:1 for full report). This touched on the component parts of staging a large-scale exercise with multiple moving parts, as well as the learning produced, and it was interesting that these areas transcended national boundaries and resonated with our American colleagues.

The IAB was interested in several aspects of British practice, in particular the application of inter-agency liaison and the forward command model used at incidents. This is where police, fire and emergency medical services personnel work together with a shared strategy and risk assessment, the benefit being that individual agencies’ expertise is pooled for the common cause.

The other aspect of the UK input was to highlight the current threat and, by reference to experience and international events, raise consideration of some of the investigative and forensic challenges posed in responding to dynamic and ongoing terrorist event, either at home or where our citizens are caught up in attacks in other countries.

The strength of the IAB lies in the depth of its subject matter knowledge and US colleagues presented on a broad range of matters, including long-term analysis of active shooter incidents and the distinction in typology between military and civilian casualties. However, the real work of this summit took place in the breakout sessions. There were nine options and delegates were able to take part in six sessions, which ranged from threat based topics, such as explosives and fire as a weapon, to functional areas including incident command, exercising and policy.

Each breakout comprised a diverse mix of delegates and disciplines with the UK contingent being wholly accepted by all concerned and encouraged to play a full and active part. The facilitator remained constant throughout and this consistency provided validation to the findings because they were an aggregation of all the contributions from each session.  

An important distinction between the US and UK is that single fire and emergency medical services departments are commonplace in the US, which is one less department to factor into the mix. Conversely, US services are dispersed more diversely than the UK, with a plethora of sizes and capabilities that range between local, state and federal agencies. For this reason the IAB offers the ability to benchmark best practice and promulgate a common standard for all concerned. This means that smaller departments, which may lack a significant research and development wing, can turn to the IAB. Equally, larger organisations, which can sometimes be inward facing, can use the IAB as a self-check reference to compare themselves with practice across the US.                

The Active Shooter and Hostile Event Summit was an extremely productive few days with much useful content coming to the fore. There is a pervasive and common threat of incidents involving hostile, active shooteres, which has manifested in numerous countries, as seen recently in Indonesia, France, the Ivory Coast and the USA. It is imperative that those charged with providing a response learn from each other and pool knowledge and experiences.

This, and the previous summit, identified a number of key priorities in terms of responding to active shooter and hostile events. The themes of these covered: Command; integration and interoperability; equipment; public communication and casualty care.

The findings are available on the IAB website for the benefit of all.

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