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8 essential truths about MCI response plans in the wake of the Vegas shooting

The Las Vegas shooting and response are reminders that public safety needs to stick with and execute our plan, not create a new one


There is nothing about the Las Vegas active shooter attack that calls for a new approach. The highly professional and well-executed response of public safety agencies in Las Vegas demonstrates that we're on track, and already working on the things we need to in order to deal with events like these. The Las Vegas attack and response are reminders that we need to stick with and execute our plan, not create a new one.

With this in mind, let’s remind ourselves about the elements of our mass casualty incident (MCI) response plans, along with some essential truths we must not forget while emotions run high:

1. Evil exists

In times of crisis, the public looks to law enforcement for leadership, and you must be ready to show them the way forward. (Photo/Star Max, AP)
In times of crisis, the public looks to law enforcement for leadership, and you must be ready to show them the way forward. (Photo/Star Max, AP)

This is no surprise to any police officer. You see evil every day, but the public doesn't, and they certainly don't see it writ large like they did in Las Vegas. The majority of people are still reeling in shock and confusion, and struggling to answer unanswerable questions, yet one thing is crystal clear in the midst of all this fog: Evil exists. You can't wish it away or ignore it. The only thing you can do is be ready to crush it without mercy when it shows up. As a protector of your fellow man, you must accept this truth and prepare yourself physically, mentally and emotionally for that duty. Let it fuel you.

2. Active shooter training pays off

It's vital that you are ready to counter this threat, as a solo officer and as a team member.

If you don't know what you're supposed to do as the first responding officer to an active shooter scene, you need to fix that.

If you don't have rifle-rated armor; a rifle you know how to shoot effectively; a bail-out bag with loaded magazines, first-aid supplies and basic breaching tools immediately available to you when you're on patrol, you need to fix that.

If you don't know how to rapidly clear a building as a member of a hasty contact team that’s hunting the shooter, you need to fix that.

If you're not sure if you're supposed to stop and provide medical aid to someone before the shooter is stopped, you need to fix that.

We will only see an increase in these kinds of attacks in the future, so make sure you are trained, equipped, and mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with them effectively.

3. Tactical combat casualty care training is a must

You must understand the basics of how to stop bleeding and open/preserve airways in a tactical environment.

You must have a suitable individual first aid kit (IFAK) on your person, not in your car, and the knowledge and skill to use it.

You must understand how to self-apply a tourniquet or dressing to save your own life.

You must have ready access to a mass casualty kit, with enough supplies to treat multiple casualties and IFAK supplies for yourself.

You must understand how and when to evacuate a casualty.

You must understand that security is a prerequisite to providing medical care.

4. Public safety integration is key to a successful response

The days of public safety stovepipes are over. Police, fire and EMS must be organized, trained and equipped to operate in an integrated and coordinated manner.

There are no red teams or blue teams any longer – you must move your agency toward a “purple” operational capability in which all public safety specialties understand how they will combine forces and work together during an emergency.

Establish protocols now for casualty collection points, insertion of fire/EMS assets into “warm” or “hot” zones, and dealing with attackers and fire simultaneously. Train together so that personnel from each agency are ready to work together in an emergency.

5. Complex, coordinated attacks (CCAs) are a threat

A single shooter caused all the chaos in Las Vegas. Imagine if there had been another, working in a location across town. If your agency isn't working on ways to address CCAs, then it's time to get serious, because the enemy has been successful with this strategy overseas and we should expect them to employ it on our shores soon. A CCA will significantly strain communications, resources, leadership and logistics, and make it extremely difficult to respond in a coordinated manner. They're coming. Get ready for them now.

6. Civilians can be a force multiplier

You cannot protect the public by yourself. You need the public to be your ally and an active participant in their own rescue. Educate the public on active shooter protocols and combat casualty care essentials. Help to organize and train them in initial response to fires, natural disasters, and criminal or terror attacks. Teach them the ethical and lawful use of force in self-defense, and support their ability to do so.

There are too many citizens out there for even the largest of police departments to serve in a crisis, so use your skill, experience and resources to turn them into a force multiplier.

7. Law enforcement must take an all-hazards approach

The attacker holds the initiative, and gets to choose the battlefield. You cannot predict what the next attack will look like, nor defend against all possibilities. The enemy is constantly changing his tactics to stay a step ahead of your defenses.

When it becomes too difficult to plan a bomb attack, they use a gun. If a gun won't work, they use a truck, or a knife, or a can of gasoline and a match. If a hardened target is too difficult to hit, they will switch to a soft one.

So, how can you possibly prepare for all these possibilities? Focus on the basics:

  • Ensure your communications are clear and disciplined, and your networks are protected and redundant;
  • Ensure you are highly skilled in the use of your issued equipment – guns, medical, rescue, communications, vehicle, etc.;
  • Wear your vest, and have ready access to a helmet, gloves, plates, a mask, and other essential protective equipment;
  • Ensure you are ready to fulfill the responsibilities of being an on-scene leader until you are relieved;
  • Know and understand your tactics. If you are prepared to execute all the duties of your job with the highest level of skill, then you have done everything necessary to be ready for the unexpected and unpredictable.

8. Police officers are role models

Frightened people will agree to surrender their liberty in exchange for promises of security. It's our job to protect and preserve that liberty, not to play a role in its destruction.

There is no amount of regulation or prohibition that will prevent evil from accessing something that can be used as a weapon. There is no amount of surveillance or control that will provide absolute security. There are no laws that will prevent evil from attacking innocents.

In times of crisis, the public looks to law enforcement for leadership, and you must be ready to show them that the way forward is through promoting freedom, not restricting it; that the way forward is through strength and courage, not weakness and fear; that the way forward is to enjoy and live our lives in the full confidence that we are ready to confront and defeat evil when it rises, not to live our lives in the shadows, hoping that it won't notice us. A fearful public needs a strong and courageous role model in a time of darkness. Let that be you!

I salute the public safety professionals that resolved the Las Vegas attack so quickly, and all of you who stand ready to do the same in your communities. There is no place beyond the reach of evil – it can show its face anywhere, anytime. So be ready, be safe, and may God bless all of you.

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