Thursday, May 30, 2013

Communication is the key

Last December, stranded in the Seattle Airport waiting for a delayed flight, I was absorbed by the local news coverage of a shooting at the Clackamas Mall in Portland. One of the things I noticed in the video from the news helicopters was what appeared to be excellent staging and triage set up by the fire & rescue and police personnel. I wondered if we would be as organized here in Lincoln if something like this happened.

Back in Lincoln, I blogged about an impression from the TV in the airport bar that caught my attention. I made this post at about 5:30 AM on Friday, December 14, 2012. Later that morning, the police chief, fire chief, 911 center manager and I gathered for our weekly joint meeting. One of the discussion items was my desire for our public safety agencies to plan and execute a training exercise this spring focused on an active shooter event. I wanted to both assess and improve our ability to get life-saving care to patients in an emergent incident when seconds count, and when the situation is still somewhat unsettled.

Little did we know as we met that Friday to lay the groundwork for this exercise, that at the same time a mass murder was underway at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. It was a bizarre coincidence. As we left our meeting, I heard the first early reports on the AM radio in my car.

The joint training exercise we first discussed last December was held yesterday at Kloefkorn Elementary School here in Lincoln.  It was a full-scale event, with about 50 first responders participating from LPD, LF&R and the 911 Center, along with several volunteers and Lincoln Public Schools personnel, especially the staff at Kloefkorn.  We learned a lot from this exercise. The hot wash immediately afterwards was productive, and as the more complete after action review takes place, I have no doubt that what we learned will help us in the future--not only in the event of an unthinkable crisis like this scenario, but also in the smaller emergencies we deal with on a daily basis.

My personal take-away was this: communication is the key. Police and fire personnel have got to work hand-in-glove in uncertain circumstances. Sharing information quickly and thoroughly is vital. We need to do all we can to assure that everyone is aware of the situation on the ground in a dynamic event that is unfolding rapidly, so that we can determine when it is reasonably safe to extricate victims and get medical care to the patients'side.

Thanks to everyone who participated and helped.


Anonymous said...

I am glad that LPD and LFR are preparing for these worst case scenarios, good job. However I wonder if maybe it is time for the concept of GUN FREE ZONES to be closely examined. It seems like most of the recent mass murders have taken place in areas where guns are not allowed. Well how has that worked out?

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

I will never understand the argument against armed police officers or at least qualified armed security in all of our schools.
The 'we don't need guns in schools' argument is so ignorant. It's not like there is going to be a table in the commons area with guns sitting on it for the taking.
It's already been proven more than once that locking the doors doesn't work. The mere fact there is a known armed response in schools will deter most individuals from coming to the school. Those that aren't deterred will at least be met with force.

Steve said...

Probably the biggest argument against armed guards in the schools (outside of pure paranoia by the gunaphobes) is the liability issue. It will undoubtedly be easier to prove negligence if an armed guard shoots an innocent person or allows his/her gun to fall into the wrong hands than if an armed intruder enters the school and starts blasting away. As long as the school to "reasonable and proper" steps to secure the building, they would not be liable for an incidents like Newton or Columbine. However, it would be quite a different story if they knowingly allowed guns on the grounds and one of them caused an injury or death to an innocent person.

I'm afraid, given the statistics on "active shooter" incidents in schools, it is probably just as likely if not more that an accidental discharge, letting a gun fall into the wrong hands, or mistakenly shooting an innocent person will happen if we start having armed guards at large numbers of schools. As horrifying as it is to have a Newton or a Columbine, the truth of the matter is that it is an anomaly. While I"m not personally opposed to armed guards in the schools, I think it would be just as effective, if not more so, to develop better plans to deal with an active shooter situation. Locking a classroom door and huddling students in a corner is not, in my opinion, the best option. Most schools have glass in or on either side of the door which can easily be broken. Some schools don't even have doors on their classrooms. When something like the Newton shooting starts, an alarm should go off, and the students and staff should exit the building by the quickest available route just as they do in a fire drill. Obviously, if the shooter is blocking an exit, people will naturally turn and go another way. It won't stop some from being killed, but doing something to get away from the danger is better than huddling in a corner waiting to be shot. Also, a moving target is more difficult to hit.

Anonymous said...


That's one of the stupidest things I have ever heard. But hey, opinions are like a-holes, everyone has one.
God bless America.

Anonymous said...

I work in a public high school and I would LOVE to have our security guards carry guns (after intense training, of course). You just don't know what it's like in these schools unless you work in one. No, I don't see dangerous/life threatening situations on a daily basis but I see the potential for it regularly. We only have one Resource Officer and he can't be everywhere in the building.

People are going to have to realize that, unfortunately, this is the sad reality we must live with now and plan for. It's NOT going to get any better. And if people think it won't happen in a Lincoln, Nebraska school, they just may have a very rude awakening one of these days.