Fire/EMS Response Considerations for Mass Shooting Incidents

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

Another excellent 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 report is an in-depth analysis of the fire service and emergency medical service (EMS) operations and the overall response to the assault on Columbine High School at Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999. Incident command, special operations, and mass casualty emergency medical services are featured. This report is available at no cost and also comes with a CD-ROM containing audio and video clips compiled by the Jefferson Co. Sheriff's Office. The report contains a wealth of information and numerous "lessons learned" to assist with the planning process.

Again, follow local guidelines and procedures. This article is intended for information only and to spur further discussion and planning within agencies. Each community should have a plan in place to address these types of events. All law enforcement officers now receive "Active Shooter Response" training as part of their basic schooling. Fire, EMS and other responders should gain at least an awareness - level understanding of mass or active shooting events and the threats they present.

Again, please remember to follow local guidelines and procedures. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is impossible to cover all the issues that will need to be addressed during a mass shooting or active shooter event. Each community should have a plan in place to address these types of events. Hopefully you will gain some information to take back to your agency to assist with planning and training efforts. The more our public safety agencies prepare, the better they are prepared to respond to effectively manage any type of situation that might arise. The community has entrusted us with their safety - so let's prepare now!

August Vernon is currently an Assistant Coordinator for the Forsyth County, NC, Office of Emergency Management. August recently returned to his position at Emergency Management after a year in Iraq as a security contractor conducting long-range convoy security operations.

Vernon has been a member of emergency management since 2000, a member of the fire service since 1990 and a fire service instructor. He also served in the U.S. Army as an NBC (Nuclear, Biological & Chemical) operations specialist. Mr. Vernon teaches courses in incident management, OPSEC for public safety, hazMat operations and terrorism/WMD response. Has also been published in several national publications and is available for questions and comments at