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The Supervisor’s Rapid Response Bag

Written by Mike Burg

Much has been written about the need for patrol officers to have a ready-to-go, active shooter rapid response bag, and that is a good thing. Patrol officers are the first wave of the emergency response.

What about the second wave? That is the response from patrol supervisors all the way to the chief. Have you thought about a supervisor’s rapid response bag? This will be one that contains the items necessary to set up a command post and take charge, long term.

The best way to decide what should be in this unique go-bag is to look closely at the various areas of responsibility, including a threat assessment. This may vary on a shift-by-shift basis. A day shift supervisor who has a school within his area of operation may list that school high on a threat level list, whereas the night shift supervisor may not.

However, the reality is that the command response will cross many shifts, perhaps 24 to 36 hours before any break in the action. Think about some way to charge your cell phone battery, but also think about a shaving razor and the meds you take each day. The reality is that the smaller town/city chief and the rural sheriff may be on-scene indefinitely.

Every shift supervisor needs their own response bag, custom made for their respective shifts. No one knows their areas better than those who drive it on a daily basis, so perhaps once the shift supervisor has his list compiled, he should sit down with his road guys to compare notes and see if they agree with the assessment. Then the chief/sheriff has to decide what they need.

In conducting a good area threat assessment, supervisors must look at a myriad of factors and types of potential targets. Schools, hospitals, rail yards, medical facilities, chemical companies, oil refineries, public transportation, airports, trucking companies, docks, power companies and media outlets (television, cable and radio studios) are all high value targets—but don’t overlook the low value targets.

For example, places of worship may not rank high on your list of potential targets, but they are rapidly moving up the ladder and need to be considered. Keep in mind when doing a threat assessment of an area that attacks can come in many forms, so don’t dismiss any of them. Attacks could be radiological, chemical, ordinance, biological or cyber in nature.

Another reason to have a supervisor’s rapid response bag is location and territory. You and your supervisors may have all of the items needed to handle the situation. But if this equipment is at the department and not in the supervisor’s car with him, it will sub stantially lengthen the response time to establish command at the scene.

Rural police supervisors and sheriff’s department supervisors may be quite a distance from their department, and the time it would take to either gather the needed equipment or have it brought to them would be better spent establishing command. Again, this is why a “one-size fits all” supervisor’s response bag isn’t feasible. A rural law enforcement supervisor’s needs are quite different from that of an inner-city police supervisor’s.

What should be in the supervisor’s go-bag? Anyone in that position can probably come up with a list of items a mile long. Try to divide the list into “must have” items and “nice-to-have” items. Remember, we are looking for a small bag to haul all of this. If we packed all our “nice to haves” on the list, we would need a need an oversized suitcase. The idea is to keep the bag portable yet packed with enough essential items to take command of a situation and perhaps start a command post.

Some items you may wish to consider are in the sidebar. Would having all of these items in every supervisor’s car be redundant? Of course, and there is a reason for that. Keep in mind that our adversaries wish to cause as much chaos, confusion and mayhem as possible.

Some of the items are redundant, such as the radio and cell phone chargers. Keep in mind that incidents can go on for an extended period, and if they do, you, as a supervisor, will need to stay in communication during the entire incident. Spare batteries and charging systems will assist you in doing that. When something absolutely has to work, such as communications during active shooter incidents or terrorist attacks, you must figure-in redundant systems. Remember the sage advice, “One is none, two is one.”

Remember to keep the bag as small as possible to reduce the space taken up in the car and to ensure that it’s not so big and heavy that the supervisor won’t take it with him, which would negate the purpose of the bag in the first place.

Now, test your supervisors. Bring in your afternoon supervisors to see if they have the necessary equipment and gear. Hand them a piece of paper with this brief scenario:

“It is Friday 4:50 pm. Your officers were dispatched to an accident on an interstate that runs through town. Officers who arrived on the scene found a tanker truck crashed into a bridge pylon leaking a chemical, with a moderate northerly wind blowing. The truck driver is non-responsive.”

You cannot plan for every possible incident or situation that may arise within your jurisdiction. However, by pre-planning, actively doing threat assessments and building supervisor rapid response bags, you have gone a long way toward establishing a command presence.

Mike Burg is a 34 year veteran of the Rittman, Ohio Polce Department. He was promoted to chief in 2007. He is a graduate of the FBI International Academy, and is a state certified firearms instructor in six different weapons.

Published in Law and Order, May 2011

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