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BIG Law Enforcement Mistakes in Texas

Columbine changed how we respond to active shooter situations.

The Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in 1999 changed everything when it comes to how law enforcement has been trained to respond to an active shooter event. Previously, the concept was to establish a police perimeter around a facility and then call for a negotiator and SWAT team to come to the scene. The key to the new situation is the word “active,” added before the word “shooter.” This denotes that killing is ongoing and you cannot just wait for the better equipped teams to show up and assist.

The tactic that evolved was that the first arriving officers would form up into teams to actively pursue and neutralize the shooter, rather than waiting for SWAT to arrive.

The event also impacted how fire departments would react to active shooter events. Rather than waiting for the “all clear” to be issued, trained medics will accompany law enforcement teams entering a facility so that lifesaving treatments can be given as quickly as possible.

All of the above was established 23 years ago. This did not appear to have happened in Texas.

Today it became very evident that the principles outlined above were not followed in the case of the Uvalde school shooting.

Now, I’m also going to guess at what else did not happen. I believe that it was unlikely that a true incident command system was established, with unified command being incorporated to coordinate the arrival of all the responding agencies and their capabilities. I’m betting that there was no staging area established where resources were checked in and their presence and special capabilities were inventoried and reported to the command post. For instance, should a bomb robot have shown up, that would have been a great recon vehicle for movement throughout the school.

The whole situation is sad, and it is unfortunate that the response to the incident did not go smoother. It will be important to document what did and did not happen so that actual lessons can be learned, since the pace of mass shootings is not slowing down.
Disaster Zone by Eric Holdeman is dedicated to sharing information about the world of emergency management and homeland security.