Written by Williams, George T.
In Part One of this article, changing the focus from a police
response to a public safety mindset in an Active Shooter event was introduced.
In Part Two, we will cover the priorities in the response and whether TEMS or
TCCC are the right answer.
Every Active Shooter incident has two fundamental processes, each
occurring simultaneously and each time-competitive: 1) the suspect is creating
more and more wounded every second he is free to do so, and 2) those wounded
are potentially bleeding out. For many, a delay of minutes in getting treatment
will be the difference between surviving or not. It is vital to recognize that
once the shooting has stopped, the life-threatening emergency continues. Time
is of the essence; the clock is running on those injured requiring immediate
professional medical care to survive.
The City of Hillsboro, Ore. Police and Fire Services recognized
the need to integrate the Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) protocol into the police
response to prevent delays in the rescue and treatment of the wounded. Fire’s
MCI protocol is a proven method of triaging (categorizing the criticality of
the individual’s wounds and conditions), stabilizing, and transporting the
wounded to advanced life support facilities.
It is mathematical: the earlier firefighter-medics can be safely
inserted into the scene, the more lives will be saved. There are near-simultaneous
co-priorities of, first, locating and interrupting the suspect to prevent
further wounding of innocents, and, second, the rapid establishment of a secure
Casualty Collection Point (CCP) within the location where fire can institute
their MCI protocol. Here are the main tactical and procedural components of the
PRIORITY ONE: Locate the
suspect and interdict the wounding cycle
Historically, the police have little influence in physically
stopping the suspect’s murder spree. In only 25 out of more than 335 incidents
since 1966 have on-duty officers actually interrupted suspects in an Active
The early entry by police is vital for a number of reasons: There
is a chance the suspect may still be actively shooting and wounding people.
There is a greater likelihood of the suspect committing suicide after realizing
officers are nearing. Officers gain a secure initial foothold into the
structure and then rapidly clear the structure of threat.
In this model, officers are trained to enter the structure as
pragmatically as possible. They are given the discretion of solo or two-officer
buddy team entry. History has proven multiple officer formations to be too
late, too slow, and too unwieldy to be practical in an Active Shooter incident.
Ideally, officers enter through different ingress points permitting a more
complete domination of the structure through multiple avenues of approach.
Indicators of Threat
First-arriving officers initially move toward any indicators of
threat such as gunfire, information through 9-1-1 dispatch, individuals
pointing, people frantically fleeing from an area of perceived danger, etc. Bypassing
doors, the officers move at a rate they are comfortable with given the
situation. Sometimes they might run, then as they near the suspect’s suspected
location, movement may become more cautious.
As additional officers arrive, multiple officers tend to respond
together, traveling in a loose overwatch with the point officers concerned with
specific uncleared corners, while the trailing officers tend to distant cover. As
contact with the suspect becomes probable, they may slow to a quick-bounding
overwatch, moving from corner to corner, or the point officer may continue
until there is a clear firing angle on the suspect.
No Indicators of Threat
If there are no indicators, there is a bifurcation of priorities:
Officers move quickly through the structure, taking control of key terrain
features such as hallways, stairwell exits, and elevators as others establish
and secure a CCP. When a trail of wounded is present, officers use that
indicator to locate and clear the area of threat. With a few officers securing
the key areas with their rifles, other officers locate the suspect while still
others begin transferring the wounded to the CCP.
The term “locate” the suspect is deliberately used rather than
“search for.” From Day One of the academy, officers have been trained that a
search is a comprehensive, thorough process, whether it is a search of a prisoner
or a search of a building. In an Active Shooter incident, time is of the
essence. It is vital to quickly find the suspect and confirm he is dead, fled,
or to take him into custody.
PRIORITY ONE-A: Designate and Secure the CCP Early
Fire’s MCI protocol is a proven method of providing timely
emergency medical care to large numbers of injured. The Golden Hour concept
dictates that the severely injured will survive only if they are treated in an
advanced life-support facility within 60 minutes of the onset of injury. To meet this 60-minute deadline,
firefighter-medics must quickly access the wounded. Minutes do count.
The MCI protocol is conducted in a Casualty Collection Point (CCP)
established and reasonably secured within minutes of the initial police entry. This
is similar in concept to a HazMat “warm zone”—personnel are able to operate
within this area with defined precautions. Fire describes this as “calculating
risk.” Fire will not inject themselves into a full risk situation outside of
their training. They will proceed if that risk percentage is lowered, making
the calculated risk justifiable.
It is up to the police to identify the location of the CCP within
the facility. It is secured by no more than four officers, and often two. The
concept of establishing a CCP while combat operations are ongoing is not new.
The goal is for fire personnel to step into the CCP within 10-12 minutes of the
first officer’s entry.
Why Not TCCC or TEMS?
Some in law enforcement have recognized the need for early EMS
intervention. Solutions have centered around Tactical Combat Casualty Care
(TCCC) and Tactical Emergency Medical Support (TEMS). Unfortunately, neither of
these solutions is able to manage a Mass Casualty Incident.
TCCC, or “Self-Aid, Buddy-Aid,” was developed by the military to
offset preventable deaths on the battlefield. Personnel are trained to quickly
respond while under fire to life-threatening traumatic injuries. In the mass
casualty event, officers apply Buddy-Aid procedures to prevent severe blood
loss and establish airways.
TCCC is a stop-gap measure designed to limit additional casualties
by immediately addressing the most common life-threatening injuries without sustaining
further wounds either to the victim or rescuers. Once the injured can be
extracted safely, they are transported immediately to the CCP in a mass
casualty incident, or directly to a treatment facility if an individual
In the mass casualty incident, TCCC alone is insufficient. For
example, in the Active Incident involving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., Pima County Sheriff’s deputies are rightly
credited with saving the lives of victims by applying their TCCC training. Rather
than validating the TCCC concept, this incident actually confirms the value of
a CCP. The shooting took place on the sidewalk outside of a Safeway grocery
store. There were five dead and 14 wounded all in one specific location with
access for fire and ambulances.
a married doctor and nurse immediately set up triage. Rep. Giffords was
transported and on the operating table within 53 minutes of being shot. Her
neurosurgeon credited her survival to her rapid transport. Establishing the CCP, rapidly triaging and stabilizing the
patients, and the efficient transport of the wounded saved lives.
TEMS is an advanced approach to caring for the wounded and injured
while under fire. A SWAT-trained physician or paramedic embedded within a team
is able to move and operate in the hot zone under the direction of the team
leader. The TEMS concept provides advanced life support capabilities to a
wounded individual (officer, bystander, victim or suspect) when it is not
possible to extract him/her from the crime scene due to the danger presented by
A TEMS qualified operator is a physician or a certified paramedic
as well as SWAT certified. Equipping the
TEMS operator is expensive given both the medical and the SWAT protective
equipment. In addition to the basic SWAT certification, there are ongoing
physical fitness standards and training requirements to maintain SWAT
There are fundamental problems with TEMS during an Active Shooter
incident. There is a lack of TEMS qualified operators in any single region.
TEMS operates in pods of four armed officers, escorting the TEMS operator into
the warm crime scene to begin treatment of the wounded. If 10 TEMS operators
could be rapidly located and transported to the scene, 40 officers would be
required for security—this requires time in assembling each team.
TEMS is intended to provide care under fire. By the time the TEMS
operator enters the location, the suspect will have long been located or
secured. The operator’s medical skills will be better employed in the
stabilization of the wounded at the CCP rather than being fed piecemeal into
the location. TEMS cannot efficiently process large numbers of wounded.
Within the Hillsboro CMCI model, for the cost of one supervisor,
two officers for CCP security, and two or more officers to provide convoy
security for fire apparatus, law enforcement receives the full resources of the
local fire department plus allied fire agencies as they arrive. The police are
able to perform rescue operations as soon as the CCP is secure, rather than
calling in frustration for medics to respond.
The CCP also functions as a Forward Operating Base for police
supervisors to coordinate internal operations distinct from the CP, such as
forming ad hoc search or rescue teams, identifying a problem where more or
fewer officers are needed, and other immediate supervisory needs.
Establish a “Joint” Command Post Early
Bringing two public safety disciplines together requires a level
of flexibility. For the police a “unified” command means that different
entities are working together in a single location. For the fire service, a
Unified Command is a formal structure within the Incident Command System for
the implementation of National Information Management System (NIMS) protocols. A
Unified Command Post generally requires one or more hours to set up and is
intended to manage a large event over a period of days or weeks.
A “Joint Command Post” (JCP) permits police and fire commands to
better obtain and coordinate resources. A JCP assists commanders in assessing
the incident as well as helping to prevent both services from working at cross
In the Hillsboro model, a police lieutenant and a fire battalion
chief meet at the Fire Staging location a short distance from the incident. Dispatch
sets up a radio network patch to permit both services to monitor police and
fire broadcast. Once the CCP has been set up and declared reasonably secure,
the JCP gives permission for fire personnel to enter. The JCP coordinates EMS
ambulance arrival and departure, and assignment of patient destination on a
separate frequency from the patched channel.
Most Efficient Life-Saving Method
The Hillsboro model response to a criminal event where numerous
casualties have resulted is practical and meets the fundamental goal of saving
the lives of those who can be saved. It represents an evolving understanding of
these events—an Active Shooter is not solely a police event.
The near-simultaneous co-priorities of locating the shooter and
the early establishment of the CCP addresses both the need to stop the wounding
cycle as well as the need for the wounded to have immediate access to medical
attention. To stop the suspect, officers are permitted to make solo or
multiple-officer entry—or to delay entry—based on their on-the-spot assessment
of the situation. Officers are tasked with locating the suspect as rapidly as
possible. A formal search will be conducted by officers and SWAT following the
evacuation of the wounded.
As soon as there are sufficient resources seeking the suspect’s
location, a CCP is established by officers. Any officer may set up the CCP, and
officers are assigned to act as security. Once the secured CCP is established,
firefighters in their vehicles and equipment are released to move with their
armed police escorts to the CCP where the officers will act as additional
security within the CCP or at the exterior where the ambulances are loading
Stopping a suspect from shooting innocent people and to care for
the wounded: The specialties of both the police and fire are required to meet
these needs. We will never be able to prevent these events from occurring, but
we can make a difference in how many victims die as a result.
George T. Williams is the Director of Training for Cutting Edge
Training in Bellingham, Wash. He has been a Police Training Specialist for more
than three decades, as well as an expert witness in federal and state courts
nationwide and a widely published author for more than two decades. Mr. Williams
develops and presents revolutionary concepts within integrated force training
solutions through a problem-solving format, functionalizing police skills and
tactical training. He may be contacted at email@example.com.