A Review and 3 Highlights of the DHS Active Shooter Preparedness Workshop

Last month I had the opportunity to attend a day-long active shooter workshop in Rochester, NY conducted by the DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection.  The focus was awareness of, preparedness for, and response to an active shooter event, with a lean towards a facilities-based audience rather than public safety.

The workshop began with discussions on recognition, then worked through each of the five mission areas (Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery).  The primary speaker was excellent, with real-world experience in active shooter situations.  While they referred to the offering as a pilot, the workshop has been around for a few years in various versions.  Understandably, and unfortunately, it’s difficult for the workshop to keep up with lessons learned from recent events.

As mentioned, the workshop weaves through the five mission areas, rather awkwardly trying to also align with the CPG 101 planning process.  I’m not sure that the two really fit well and it was clearly something new to the course, as the primary speaker missed some of the indicators for activities.  The workshop agenda also fell short, with the facilitators clearly offering a higher than usual number of breaks and of longer than usual length to maintain the workshop as a full day.

The activities were table-based, and focused on the primary steps as outlined in CPG 101, with the goal of giving some ideas and structure to the creation of an active shooter preparedness plan for a facility.  Ideas and discussion generated at our table and others were great, as attendees came from a broad array of facilities, such as schools, night clubs, health care, office buildings, and others.  The most disappointing comments were those about roadblocks people faced within their own organizations in planning and other preparedness activities for active shooters.  There is clearly a lot of denial about these incidents, which will only serve to endanger people.

With a number of public safety professionals in attendance, there was some great reflection on coordination with public safety in both preparedness and response.  One of the gems of the workshop was the number of audio and video clips provided throughout.  The segments included media and 911 clips, as well as post incident interviews with victims and responders.  The insight offered by these was excellent and they were a great value add.

Three pieces of information resonated above all others in this workshop:

  • Run, Hide, Fight (or variants thereof) was stressed as the best model for actions people can take in the event of an active shooter.
  • The inclusion of planning for persons with disabilities is extremely important in an active shooter situation. They may have less of an ability to Run, Hide, and/or Fight, and this should be accounted for in preparedness measures.
  • Essential courses of action for planning include:
    1. Reporting
    2. Notification
    3. Evacuation
    4. Shelter in Place
    5. Emergency Responder Coordination
    6. Access Control
    7. Accountability
    8. Communications Management
    9. Short Term Recovery
    10. Long Term Recovery

Since the workshop was in pilot form, there were no participant manuals provided, which a number of people were hopeful to have.  They did, however, provide a CD with a plethora of materials, including references, some videos, and planning guides.  Many of these I’ve seen and used before, but some were new to me.  There was a commitment to send us all an email with a link to a download of the participant manual once it was available.  Some of those resources can be found here.

All in all, this was a good workshop.  The mix of an audience (numbering over 60, I believe) contributed to great discussion and the primary speaker was great.  The presentation materials were solid and provided a lot of context.  While I was disappointed in the lack of a participant manual and the inclusion of too many breaks, I certainly understand that this is the pilot of a redeveloped program which they are trying to keep as timely and relevant as possible.  While I already knew of many of the concepts and standards, there was some great material and discussion, especially in the context of facilities rather than public safety response.  This is a good program which I would recommend to facility owners, managers, and safety/emergency management personnel as well as jurisdiction emergency management and public safety personnel.

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC Your Partner in Preparedness

Five Guidelines for Creating Effective Disaster Exercise Injects

While there is a lot of important and necessary planning that takes place before the development of exercise injects can even be considered, injects themselves are where the proverbial rubber meets the road.  How we craft those injects can often times make or break the conduct of the exercise.  Injects provide context, as if the events of the exercise were occurring in real life.  While we try to avoid delivering injects that directly prompt player responses, injects will often provide information which will lead players to react to the information provided.  Here are five guidelines to help you develop effective exercise injects:

  1. Injects must be purposeful and each one must relate back to one or more exercise objectives. Far too often we see injects that have no real bearing on the objectives of the exercise.  These are simply distractions and lead to busy work.  Keep things focused.  Just a few well-crafted injects can engage a number of players in active discussion or activity.
  2. Realistic injects are a must. While there will always be a grumble from some people claiming that something would ‘never happen that way’, due diligence must go into ensuring that injects are as realistic and grounded as possible.
  3. Be aware of who an inject would actually originate from. A common mistake I see is injects being scripted to originate from inappropriate sources.  This distracts from reality.  Also, injects should never originate from a player.
  4. Be flexible and aware. Sometimes players accomplish what they need to without an inject.  In that event, there may not be a need to use that inject.  Similarly, players may not respond to an inject as expected, so further action on the part of the Facilitators/Controllers/Simcell may be needed.
  5. Always have backups! As you build your Master Scenario Events List (MSEL), maintain a side list of contingency injects that can be used to speed up or slow down the exercise, or to address occurrences where players did not respond as expected.

Thoughts and ideas on these and other guidelines are always welcome!

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC Your Partner in Preparedness!

An Open Letter to LinkedIn Discussion Group Moderators

For those of you tuning in for your (somewhat) regular fix on emergency management and homeland security commentary, I apologize for this quick detour.  I encourage you, however, to read on and provide your thoughts and feedback on a matter which relates to how you are able to view my posts.  There are a few inconvenient practices out there which I feel a need to address.

While I have a humbling and ever growing number of people who follow my blog directly at www.triecker.wordpress.com, many read my posts through a variety of LinkedIn discussion groups.  Some of these groups were created and simply exist publicly, while others are members-only and diligently maintained by moderators who do great work to keep certain posts out of their group, such as those that are largely irrelevant and those which blatantly serve no other purpose than to market products and services.  As a member of several of these discussion groups, I am greatly appreciative of the time and effort these moderators put in.  I do, however, have some important feedback.

As I have been blogging for a few years now and cross posting to several LinkedIn discussion groups, I’ve encountered some practices with moderators with which I disagree.  Most recently, a discussion thread which originated from one of my blog posts was, inexplicably, shut down and closed to further comment.  The discussion in the thread was lively, with several people contributing to an excellent dialogue.  There didn’t appear to be any nastiness or inappropriate behavior, and all comments were on topic.  The thread was shut down with no notice, publicly or privately.  I’m not aware of there being any automatic limits on replies, but if there are, I don’t see a reason why.  This was an unfortunate occurrence which limited productive dialogue of your members.

Second, there are several of these groups that have an anti-spam feature.  On the surface, this is excellent!  In practice, especially for someone who appreciates active dialogue with those who comment, it’s a royal pain in the ass.  Essentially, after I reach some magic number of replies within a discussion thread, my replies will then go off into the ether, awaiting approval by the moderators before they are posted.  This process severely stalls great dialogue.

Lastly, many of these groups have certain rules which disallow posts which include blatant marketing content.  This is a great rule, as many of us have received notice from open groups with posts which are 100% pure marketing – which is not a reason why most people join these groups.  That said, these rules have been applied a bit too strictly and without common sense.  I’ve had moderators contact me (and some who don’t), refusing to post an article, simply because I include the name of my company and a link to our webpage at the bottom of my blog.  I’ve had others refuse to post an article because I include a sentence or two at the end of my blog about the services my company provides.  Allow me to make a few points with this… 1) The vast majority of my blogs run from 500-800 words.  The inclusion of my company name/web address, or a sentence or two at the end of that post related to the services my company provides does not make my post an advertisement.  I’d like to think there is still plenty of intellectual value to what I’m writing about.  2) This is LinkedIn.  It’s a social media platform for professionals.  That means that a certain amount of professional promotion should be expected.  3) Having given plenty of presentations for trade shows and membership groups, their guidelines regularly allow the ‘soft sell’, which means that while the bulk of your presentation is not directly about marketing your business, they usually allow a minute or two at the end to mention what your company does.  This is a pretty fair courtesy which I think is quite reasonable for discussion groups to apply.

Final words – Moderators, I greatly appreciate the time you put in and what you do.  Seriously.  You help keep a lot of crap and spam away from our inboxes and notifications.  I implore you, however, to remember what the intent of LinkedIn is, and with that in mind apply the rules of your discussion groups to maximize dialogue for the benefit of your members.

  • Thank you.

<no marketing message posted here>

Timothy Riecker, CEDP

ICS Training (Still) Sucks… One Year Later

Just over a year ago, I posted my article Incident Command Training Sucks, which to date has been viewed almost 2000 times on the WordPress blog platform, alone.  Since then, I’ve written several more times on the necessity to change the foundational ICS training curriculum in the US to programs that are focused on application of ICS in initial and transitional response instead of just theory and vague instruction.  I am greatly appreciative of all the support these articles have received and the extra effort so many have taken to forward my blog on to the attention of others.  These posts have led to some great dialogue among some incredible professionals about the need to update ICS training.  Sadly, there is no indication of action in this direction.

A recent reader mentioned that it often ‘takes guts to speak the truth’.  It’s a comment I appreciate, but I think the big issue is often complacency.  We settle for something because we don’t have an alternative.  Also, I’ve found that people are reluctant to speak out against the current training programs because there are so many good instructors or because the system, foundationally, is sound.  My criticisms are not directed at instructors or the system itself – both of which I overwhelmingly believe in.  I’m also not being critical of those who have participated in the creation of the current curriculum or those who are the ‘keepers’ of the curriculum.

Much of the existing curriculum has been inherited, modified from its roots in wildfire incident management, where it has served well.  While adjustments and updates have been made through the years, it’s time we take a step away and examine the NEED for training.  Assessment is, after all, the first step of the ADDIE model of instructional design.  Let’s figure out what is needed and start with a clean slate in designing a NEW curriculum, instead of making adjustments to what exists (which clearly doesn’t meet the need).

Another reader commented that ‘The traditional ICS courses seem to expect the IC to just waive their hands and magically the entire ICS structure just would build beneath them’.  It is phrases we find in the courses such as ‘establish command’ or ‘develop your organization’ that are taken for granted and offer little supporting content or guides to application.  The actions that these simple phrases point to can be vastly complicated.  This is much of the point of Chief Cynthia Renaud’s article ‘The Missing Piece of NIMS: Teaching Incident Commanders to Function on the Edge of Chaos’.  We need to train to application and performance – and I’m not talking about formal incident management teams, I’m talking about the responders in your communities.  The training programs for incident management teams are great, but not everyone has the time or ability to attend these.

I’m hoping that my articles continue to draw attention to this need.  Perhaps the changes that come as a result of the final NIMS refresh will prompt this; hopefully beyond just a simple update to the curriculum giving us a real, needs-based rewrite.  As I’ve mentioned before, this is public safety, not a pick-up game of kickball.  We can do better.

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLCYour Partner in Preparedness

Achieving Coordination Through Unity of Effort

WESA 90.5, Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station, posted an interesting article titled ‘Trump Rally To Blame for Emergency Response Revamp’.  As the articles tells the story, an internal City committee spent several weeks reviewing communications and other information after an April rally in which three were arrested and four police officers suffered minor injuries.  The findings of the committee’s work included the discovery of fractured planning and response within the City of Pittsburgh.  Assuming this has been a regular practice, I’m surprised it took them this long to discover the issue and begin work to address it – although when a jurisdiction functions in a fractured fashion, it’s an easy observation to miss.

The City’s Public Safety Director stated a new system is being implemented in which a ‘unified and streamlined approach to planning’ and a ‘clearer chain of command’ will be put in place.  The article indicates that the City’s Emergency Management Office will have more of a role in coordination.

It’s good to see that Pittsburgh is making some changes to how they plan for and respond to incidents.  This should serve as a role model for a significant number of jurisdictions across the nation – and I’m sure across the world – which have siloed planning and response, with each agency conducting their own activities with little to no coordination.  Proper and safe emergency management requires a team approach, and every team needs someone to coordinate and lead.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that emergency management is in charge – in fact I feel it’s a rare occasion that emergency management should be in charge – but coordination is still an essential element of success, particularly for complex planning and operations.

The term ‘unity of effort’ is gaining more and more traction through the years.  I first heard it probably ten or twelve years ago.  I was pleased to see the intention of adding the term officially to our lexicon in the draft NIMS Refresh document that was released a couple months back.  Although it was just a mention, it was rather encouraging.  Unity of effort doesn’t require an emergency management office or an emergency manager, but having a central point of coordination helps – especially one that isn’t focused or constrained by the mission and tactics of other public safety agencies.  The mission of emergency management IS coordination!

How do you rate the public safety coordination in your jurisdiction?  Is there room for improvement?  While politics are often at play, sometimes it just takes a good measure of facilitation to bring people together in one room and talk about what needs to be accomplished.

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC – Your Partner in Preparedness

HSEEP Controllers and Evaluators Still Needed

VT VG Recruitment Notice2 (link to recruitment flyer)

Vigilant_Guard_Logo_2_2_wCrackEmergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC is seeking Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP)-trained personnel to support the Vermont Vigilant Guard full scale exercise, scheduled for July 25-August 2, 2016.  You do not need to apply for the entire time period – the greatest need is from July 29-August 1.

Personnel will serve as controllers and evaluators for this exercise.  Shifts are available throughout the period at locations across the state.  Pay is negotiable and travel expenses will be reimbursed.  Interested parties should contact us by June 24th, 2016.

While all areas of expertise will be considered, we are highly interested in personnel with experience in the following areas:

  • Planning
  • Operational Coordination and EOC Management
  • Mass Care Services and Sheltering
  • Critical Transportation
  • Environmental Response/Health and Safety and Hazardous Materials
  • Operational Communications
  • Public Information and Warning
  • Logistics and Supply Chain Management
  • Urban Search and Rescue (USAR)
  • Public Health, Healthcare, and Emergency Medical Services
  • On-Scene Security, Protection, and Law Enforcement
  • Intelligence and Information Sharing
  • Fire Management and Suppression
  • Situational Awareness
  • Cybersecurity
  • Infrastructure Systems

Interested?

Contact Christine at Chris@epsllc.biz.  

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLCYour Partner in Preparedness

How Prepared are US Households?

Within the 2013 American Housing Survey, the United States Census Bureau asked US residents how prepared they were for disasters.  They assembled a great infographic on their findings, which can be found here.  Thanks to Jason S for posting this on LinkedIn last week! (commentary below)

Measuring America: How Ready Are We?

I find many of the numbers to be interesting, and am quite honestly skeptical of several of them.  I’m sure the methodology of the Census Bureau’s survey is sound, but I question some of the results based upon my own interactions with the public regarding preparedness.  I’d be interested in seeing the questions.  I did a bit of digging around and found the Census website for the American Housing Survey, which is located here.  There are a variety of data tables available, including breakdowns related to these preparedness questions, but nothing that I can find that specifically provides the questions.  From what I’ve seen, it appears the survey was only conducted in major metropolitan areas around the US.

Emergency Water Supply: 54.3% of households state that they have at least three gallons of water for each person in the household.  This number seems high to me.  I’m left wondering if some people may have thought this included tap water?

Non-Perishable Emergency Food: 82% of households said they have enough non-perishable food to sustain their family for three days.  Have you looked in your pantry lately?  I fully agree with this number.  You may not be able to make full meals or have them be nutritionally balanced, but I do believe that most pantries can provide adequate sustenance for a family for three days.

Prepared Emergency Evacuation Kit: 51.5% of households say they have one.  Really?  I’m not convinced.

Emergency Meeting Location: 37.4% of households say they have an identified emergency meeting location.  While the number still might be a little high, I think it’s within a realistic range.

Communication Plan: 33% of households say they have a communication plan which includes a contingency for the disruption of cell service.  Same as the previous item, perhaps a little high, but I think it’s in the ballpark.

Evacuation Vehicles: 88.6% of households say they have a vehicle or vehicles able to carry all household members, pets, and supplies up to 50 miles away.  I did a bit of digging around, and this number seems accurate, as about 90% of US households have vehicles.  I’m a bit surprised about how high the number is considering that this survey canvassed major metropolitan areas, though.

Evacuation Funds: 69.8% of households said they have access to up to $2000 in the event of evacuation.  In all, between cash and credit, I can believe this number.  They may have to get out of the disaster area, however, to access funds electronically.

House or Building Number Clearly Visible: 77.5% of households said they have this.  Having worked as a firefighter and EMT for many years, I’d agree that somewhere between 2/3 to ¾ of building numbers are visible.

Generator Present: 18.3% of households say they have a generator present.  All in all a sound number, I believe, but perhaps a bit high for urban areas.

Access to Financial Information: 76.8% of households say they have access to their financial information.  This is a question I’d like to see the wording on, but aside from taking time to dig through old bills, I’m skeptical.  Emergency Financial First Aid Kits are a great idea and should be maintained regularly.

I’m hopeful that many of these numbers are reflections of reality, but even if they are we have a long way to go.  One of the best resources out there is WWW.READY.GOV.  Everyone should check it out and make some progress toward individual and family preparedness.  First responders and emergency managers – this means you, too!

What are your thoughts on these statistics?  Those of you in other nations – what kind of preparedness data have you seen for your country?

Stay safe!

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLCYour Partner in Preparedness