Fire-EMS Response to Mass Shootings

August Vernon discusses the response to a mass shooting in your community.

If there is a law enforcement Special Response Team (SRT) or Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit in your jurisdiction, ask for its assistance. Most if not all-special response teams have trained for an active-shooter event.

There are several excellent sources of information to utilize when planning and training:

When Violence Erupts: Survival Guide for Emergency Responders by Dennis Krebs,

Understanding Terrorism and Managing The Consequences, Chapter 3 - Terrorism/Tactical Violence Incident Response Procedures, by Paul M. Maniscalco and Hank T. Christen,

Another tool to assist in the planning phase is the "Wanton Violence at Columbine High School Technical Report" available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at for public safety agencies. This is an in-depth analysis of fire and EMS operations and the overall response to the assault on Columbine High School at Littleton, CO, on April 20, 1999.


Law enforcement officers receive "active-shooter response" training as part of their basic schooling. Fire and EMS departments and other emergency response agencies should gain at least an awareness-level understanding of mass-shooting events and the threats they present.

Each community should have a plan in place to address mass-shooting incidents. The more our public safety agencies plan, the better prepared they are to respond and effectively manage any type of situation that may arise.

AUGUST VERNON is an assistant coordinator with the Forsyth County, NC, Office of Emergency Management. He recently returned from a year in Iraq as a security contractor. Vernon is also an adjunct instructor for the "OPSEC for Public Safety" Program. He has been involved in emergency management since 2000 and a member of the fire service since 1990. Vernon also served in the U.S. Army as an NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) Operations Specialist. He is involved in teaching Incident Management and terrorism/WMD related subjects and can be reached reference for questions or comments at