What we actually and thankfully learned from Columbine and other tragic active-shooter incidents is that getting the resources to these scenes that both fire and police felt comfortable with took an inordinate amount of time to be effective against what was going on inside. Thus, we began to meet with each other about things other than issues with EMS and where the police parked their cruisers at our fire scenes. Subject matter experts in the medical, police, and fire service fields came up with what most of us considered the most unconventional and major departure from historical responses to active-shooter incidents: having fire and EMS personnel entering active-shooter incidents side by side with the police to neutralize the shooter and triage simultaneously. As you can imagine, many on both sides of the aisle gave pause when briefed on the scope of these hybrid response policy ideas. Some, in fact, becoming extremely vitriolic about our blurring roles and responsibilities and why it would put both agencies in danger.
The fact that we could finally talk to each other on the radio and share information more readily was the impetus for overcoming the main barrier to any real and needed help we could offer each other: communications. As grants bought us the whiz-bang radios that we both liked, we could talk not just at the meeting room table but at any incident anywhere in our communities. As a result, when it came to the emergent, progressive active-shooter policies, we already had the hardest part overcome and in the can. And this month, we put these and similar collaborative response strategies in the can for you all, along with some of the ways in which we are finally consolidating the mission of public safety in our communities. So, before you make the next call to invite the police over for a meal or some coffee prior to the next planning meeting on the next response, dive into this month’s great features and ideas that have worked in other fire departments and communities.
For example, Michael Wright from the Milwaukee (WI) Fire Department describes how he assumed the role of collaborating with the police department on tactical emergency medical services as the team’s new director. Learn how this team was used during the infamous Sikh Temple Shooting to put this new collaboration to the test at a major incident. Also, Jason Gallimore from the Poudre (CO) Fire Authority discusses our response to suicide incidents. Jason reminds us that we can’t become unwitting participants in these incidents and suffer irreconcilable consequences. It’s not just police who are left holding the bag on these tragic events; all of us should take responsibility to properly act. Finally, what about just jumping in with both feet when it comes to forging new relationships with the police department? This is always a great idea when combating terror, and Suffolk County (NY) Police Chief of Department Stuart Cameron provides a great roadmap of identifying the players well in advance of any of these types of incidents. This will save invaluable time to ensure that these players are known, if they’re responding, and how to get them to the right place(s). I agree that it’s time to reintroduce ourselves to each other and face the fact with positive optimism that it’s time we shared more than tax dollars going forward.