Fire/EMS Response Considerations for Mass Shooting Incidents

The first step in your preparation is a review of your agency's guidelines and procedures.


This article will focus primarily on the "Fire/EMS Response to Mass Shootings" component. Your best tools will be your good common sense and awareness. The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. Please follow all local procedures and guidelines when responding to these types of events. Experience with past mass shooting/active shooter events have shown:

  • Pre-planning is critical!
  • First arriving units have a drastic effect on the progress of the incident. Must quickly and safely conduct "windshield survey".
  • Immediate interagency cooperation/Unified Command is essential.
  • ICS, ICS and more ICS
  • Clear communications are necessary for effective operations.
  • Access to helicopters for overhead assessments is a plus.
  • Notify all key agencies supporting entities as soon as possible (emergency management, hospitals, etc.)
  • Plan on large and immediate media response.
  • Plan on large and immediate parents, family and friends response to the incident scene.
  • Fire and EMS personnel should wear helmet and clearly marked Fire or EMS jackets. If there is any doubt that a responder is not seen as a firefighter or EMS responders should wear a road vest or t-shirt with highly visible lettering.
  • Body armor should be obtained for those responding into the "impact" area.
  • During these types of events related and unrelated 911-call volume may go up.
  • EMS may need to implement disaster procedures such as triage tags, casualty collection points and field treatment areas for minor injuries.
  • Use of Tactical Medics in supporting law enforcement operations is encouraged.
  • Numerous mass shooting and active shooter events have seen the use of Improvised Explosives Devices (IED's) so be aware of this hazard and the growing use of secondary devices.
  • Remember: Firfe/EMS can be targets of violence!

Tactical Medicine

One excellent source for protecting responders and the public during an active shooter or mass-shooting event is the use of Tactical Medics. According to the International Tactical EMS Association (ITEMS), "These medical providers can then maintain the wellness of the team's members and provide immediate medical care to anyone in need, whether they're law enforcement officers, innocent bystanders or suspects."

Agencies should look at Officer Down and Tactical Medic courses for dealing with these types of situations. These medics have received additional training in multiple subjects such as firearms use, remote site medical care, IEDs, terrorism, preventive medicine, tactics, ballistic injuries, etc. Tactical medics are great assets to any agency during "Critical Incident" responses (active shooters, law enforcement support, barricaded subjects, civil unrest, VIP escorts, meth lab responses, etc.) Tactical medics have also proven to be a valuable lifesaver for military and security teams currently operating in Afghanistan and Iraq. For additional information on tactical medicine and "real world" tactical medic training opportunities visit www.tacticalelement.com.

Special Response Teams

If there is a local law enforcement Special Response Team (SRT) or Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit in your jurisdiction, contact them to ask for assistance with your mass shooting or active shooter training and planning issues. Due to the increase of workplace and school shooting incidents in the past decade most if not all-special response teams have trained for an active shooter event. These teams should be willing to provide your agency with guidelines for a mass-shooting event since they may also require your support during an actual incident. One must also take into account that much of SET/SWAT and Bomb Squad training and equipment information is very sensative in nature and must be handled as such. Some of this type of information is not for the public or the media due to safety concerns.

Training for Mass Shooting Incidents

Training is one way in safely managing a mass-shooting event. There are several excellent sources of information that you can utilize to update your plans and training. These include:

  • When Violence Erupts: A Survival Guide for Emergency Responders, by Dennis Krebs, www.medicsurvival.com
  • Understanding Terrorism and Managing The Consequences: Chapter 3. Terrorism/ Tactical Violence Incident Response Procedures by Paul M. Maniscalco and Hank T., www.bradybooks.com/