Active Shooter Cycle: Train Now or Pay Later
By: Paul Howe
Responding to an active shooter callout is the most difficult mission assigned to either patrol or tactical officers. Why? Because active shooter response requires officers to practice and rehearse a plan ahead of time. Make no mistake – rehearsal is mandatory! Additionally, officers must take special equipment into the facility to ensure that after the threat is neutralized, any medical contingencies encountered are addressed. Essentially, law enforcement officers must be prepared to perform a cold hit on an unknown target – a task that requires a high degree of skill in order to be successful.
While there are several other steps in the process, below are the most important points officers should rehearse during active shooter training:
• Planning and Preparation
Planning and Preparation
At the individual level, officers must know their capabilities. They must be confident in what they can accomplish. With this prior knowledge intact, they should size up the tactical situation at hand and make a personal decision to enter or wait on backup. At the FTO/supervisory level, this decision should have been worked out before the crisis occurs. Keep in mind, a commanding officer will not be on site when the crisis is unfolding. I believe it is our job to get between the hostages and hostage-takers as rapidly as possible, in a controlled manner. If shots are being fired and the officers are not being engaged with the gunfire, the bad guys are most likely shooting the hostages. This is the time to close in and move on the threat.
You should use cover when approaching threats and suspected threats, and should always approach in a careful hurry so that you can react and shoot faster than your opponent. This includes discriminating first. If done correctly, it will not cost you any more time. You should also move fast when you have a cover officer protecting your movement. Try and put cover between you and the threat area as you move. You do not have to run up to the threat. Use a geometric angle to protect yourself and screen your movement.
Although our active shooter classes are covered in two days, I have found that this is not normally enough time to cover all contingencies. Instruction begins by reviewing past incidents, discussing administrative responsibilities and examining tactical modules. Teams spend the afternoon rehearsing with their newly assigned elements. Rehearsals include: movement to breach points, breach points, hallway movements, room Close Quarter Battle (CQB) and command and control. Each of these is broken down into several different blocks of instruction.
We strive to teach officers to solve one problem at a time before they become overwhelmed with chaos. In other words, they learn to take one bite of the pie at a time, instead of choking on the whole thing. Scenario training is next on the agenda. We normally begin with a single shooter and medical emergencies, utilizing five role players in a 2,000 sq. foot target building. Officers are encouraged to approach the structure from their hasty assembly area using realistic movement formations, instead of the typical “line of ducks” arrangement.
Occasionally, they take fire and must move through or around it to neutralize a retreating threat on the inside of the target building. I prefer they drop a cover officer if they believe they will be hit on approach. This can be accomplished with a simple bounding maneuver. Upon entering the target area, officers run into several sub-scenarios, ranging from injured unknowns to downed officers, requiring problem-solving skills prior to moving to neutralize the threat.
As the scenario training progresses, the officers’ learning curve goes straight up. I have actually considered adding a third day of training, using the same scenarios to give them reinforcement training and build confidence in their abilities. As in most first-time training, officers generally have problems on the first run. In fact, many are in shock at what they encounter. During the debriefing, I suggest they fix two to three major problems with each run. By taking their training responsibilities seriously and employing aggression and systematic movements, officers almost always cut their movement-to-contact time in half as compared to the first part of the day’s training response time. Realistically, the human mind can only absorb so much information so fast. Training takes time, effort and heart.
Notification, Movement and Linkup
Medical items are for casualty treatment of both innocents and downed officers. Remember, school nurses will normally have limited trauma gear and office buildings will most likely have none at all. If you fail to bring it, it will not get there. Simple items such as Kerlix and Co-flex can make a world of difference when the scene is littered with critically wounded people. Scissors are used to cut clothes and expose wounds. Chemlites allow you to mark Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), should they be encountered. When you have time, review some of the recent footage of officers responding to active shooter scenarios, and notice what little equipment they bring.
Movement to Entry/Breach Points
Movement to Crisis Points
Linkup with Follow-On Elements
Site Security, Consolidation and Treatment of Injured
About the Author
Editor’s Note: Active Shooter training is of vital importance to today’s law enforcement officers. Combat Shooting and Tactics offers Active Shooter and Active Shooter Instructor classes to law enforcement and military. Pulling from his vast real-world experience in the dynamics of these kinds of incidents, Paul provides instruction that is among the best in the nation. For more information, contact paul by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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