Strength in Numbers: fire service and active shooters

By Russ Sanders and Ben Klaene

For NFPA Journal

IN DECEMBER 13, 2012, LOCAL FIREFIGHTERS were among the first to arrive at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, in response to a shooter in the school. As police entered the building to hunt down the gunman, firefighters helped set up a triage unit at the site to treat the injured. But no injured came. “A few times during the incident I actually [was] hoping that this area [would be] filled with injured people,” one firefighter told CNN. “But fairly early on we realized that wasn’t going to be the case.” People either got out uninjured, or they died in the school. When it was over, 20 children and six adults at the school were dead.

Ten days later, in upstate New York, a 911 dispatcher received a call from an unidentified man who claimed he was under fire. “We are being shot at,” he told the dispatcher, according to NBC News. “Multiple firemen down. Multiple firemen are shot. I am shot. I think he is using an assault rifle.”

Chiefs endorse document on active shooters
At its September 2013 meeting at NFPA headquarters, the Urban Fire Forum endorsed a position paper on active shooters and mass casualty terrorist events. The UFF Position Statement: Active Shooter and Mass Casualty Terrorist Events begins with this statement: “The emerging threat of terrorism and asymmetric warfare, specifically small unit ‘active shooter’ and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, is a concern for the fire service. An attack by radicals armed with weapons in public areas, such as schools, shopping malls, churches or any other locations where people congregate is a real threat to a sense of security and daily lives.”
Download the position paper as well as free resources, courtesy of Chief Jim Schwartz of Arlington County, VA, to help a community prepare for an active shooter or mass casualty terrorist event.
The Urban Fire Forum brings together the fire chiefs who are responsible for protecting some of the largest urban centers in the world.

The caller was a member of the volunteer fire department in West Webster, New York, near Rochester. Firefighters were responding to a pre-dawn residential blaze in the nearby town of Webster when they were met with gunfire—a man had purposely set his vehicle and home on fire to lure firefighters and other emergency responders to the scene, where he ambushed them. Two firefighters were killed and two more were wounded in the shooting spree. News outlets quickly made the connection that the Webster gunman used the same model of military-style, semi-automatic rifle that the Newtown shooter had used.

The events of last December illustrate how local fire departments need to work with police, as well as with emergency medical services, in responding to events that include a shooter—whether the threat is known, as in Newtown, or unknown, as in the ambush in Webster. Both types are of great concern to fire and police agencies nationwide, and efforts are underway to address issues related to shooter events.

Read the full article here.