In May 2020, Bloomberg News reported that the number of mass shootings in the United States was down 24% from the year before as workspaces, businesses, places of worship, entertainment venues and cultural spots were closed. The news outlet indicated that the decline occurred despite a spike in gun sales in April.
With COVID-19 dominating the news in recent months, we certainly haven’t heard as much about active shooter incidents and hostile events. If there are any silver linings attributed to the global pandemic, this could be one of them.
NFPA continues to generate information on active shooter hostile event response (ASHER) despite the recent lull. In April, NFPA 3000, Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program was released. The new 2021 version of the world’s only active shooter standard supersedes the previous edition which was one of only two provisional standards developed in NFPA’s long history.
NFPA 3000 began to take shape in October of 2016, when Chief Otto Drozd of Orange County Fire and Rescue in Florida submitted a new project request on behalf of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Orange County was one of the departments that responded in June of that year to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in which 49 people were killed and an additional 58 were injured.
In response, the NFPA Standards Council formed the Technical Committee on Cross Functional Emergency Preparedness and Response the next spring. The committee, which is currently at 70 members, is made up of representatives from law enforcement, the fire service, EMS, hospitals, emergency management, private security, facility management, education, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice. Members of the committee took into consideration job-specific insight from tragic events at Mandalay Bay Resort, Pulse Nightclub, Sandy Hook Elementary, the Sikh Temple, the Boston Marathon and other less-publicized incidents that have taken place in the United States.
The NFPA Standards Council decided to expedite the development and release of a standard because at the time there was an abundance of guidance material but no accredited consensus standard. The increased frequency and severity of incidents and the need for multidisciplinary guidance for preparedness, response and recovery made the decision easy for the Council.
New revisions to NFPA 3000 reflect a rapidly growing and changing methodology around hostile events in the last two years. As an example, the term for reunification and family assistance centres has changed to notification and incident assistance centres. This reflects directly on lessons learned from deadly incidents that occurred during the development and after the release of the initial standard. The new NFPA 3000 includes revised terminology that is designed to be more inclusive of loved ones – not only blood relatives. The new language is designed to make those connected to the victims feel empowered to seek services and information after an event. The changes also create a more accurate sense of services provided rather than give a false sense of hope to someone who is seeking reunification where that may not be an option.
In an effort to continue to promote collaboration and whole-community participation, additional annual exercise requirements have been added to the chapter for responder training, too, to match the chapters for at-risk facilities and health care.
The new standard now also includes an annex with recommended information to collect in After Action Reports (AARs). While the annex is not a part of the requirements of NFPA 3000, it provides helpful information for communities and minimum guidance for Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) to use after a hostile event. AARs should be an assembly of data from all the disciplines and organizations that provided material support to the planning, response and recovery after deadly incidents. The annex offers specific AAR recommendations for authorities that centre around:
- AAR process and intent
- AAR distribution and information sharing
- Information and data-collection points
- Location information
- Incident information
- Initial incident response
- Tactical operations
- Command and control
- Public information
- On-scene medical response
- Patient transport
- Receiving facilities
- Witness management
- Responder wellness
- Crime-scene management
- Incident assistance centre
- Long-term resiliency operations
Another effort underway to help authorities address ASHER moving forward is a two-year project being conducted by The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA. Thanks to Fire Prevention and Safety Grant money from FEMA, the Research Foundation is currently looking to define a sustainable, quantified approach to measure the impact of ASHER incidents. The report will:
- identify the relevant impacts on public-safety departments, as well as available data and methodologies to estimate their costs in dollars;
- develop a framework to benchmark costs, and identify gaps in data;
- use the framework to complete three case studies utilizing communities of different sizes and demographic compositions;
- establish recommendations for planning, training and recovery for active shooter and hostile event response that could help reduce or avoid costs; and
- disseminate methodology/framework, case studies and recommendations to appropriate audiences.
The ASHER economic and emotional impact research report and other deliverables are expected to be completed by September 2021.
And lastly, later this month a new version of NFPA 3000, Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program Specialist Online Training will debut. The six-hour series teaches how to prepare yourself, your employees, your organization, your facility and your community to effectively plan, respond and recover from active shooter and/or hostile events. The training has been updated in accordance with the newest edition of NFPA 3000, and is being released at a time when online learning is an incredibly attractive option for people.
Our world is changing, and oftentimes our first responders are on the front lines of this change. It’s critical that we take steps to protect people from today’s threats and learn lessons from the tragedies that have unfolded. NFPA 3000, the anticipated Research Foundation research report, and online training help communities protect people, property and first responders.
For more information, go to www.nfpa.org