I've been asked several times, during my tenure on the Emergency Preparedness Committee, if there is a "comprehensive national standard" for what is now correctly referred to as "Active Threat" response, covering pre-incident planning and mitigation, all the way through an incident to post-incident recovery. Until recently, my answer was somewhat mixed, referencing FEMA and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sources, along with several others, but always feeling as if those were all "just short" of a truly comprehensive "playbook."
On May 1st, 2018, the NFPA released such a standard, NFPA 3000™ (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program.
Terminology: Active Shooter vs. Active Threat
For the last twenty years or so, as workplace and school violence incidents garnered more and more media exposure, those incidents often involved the use of firearms by the perpetrators, and the term "Active Shooter" was used to describe the incident and/or assailant(s).
However, in the past several years, mass casualty incidents have seen a rise in the use of tools other than firearms. Vehicle-ramming, knife attacks, explosives, as well as the use of chemical and biological agents has led to a change in terminology, using "Active Threat" to cover a variety of mass casualty scenarios.
Why the Lack of a National Standard?
The question then arises why there was no prior national standard; why hadn't a Federal Government agency provided one? In my opinion, it was a mix of a lack of a clear mandate for any one agency to undertake such a task, competing agency interests, and just plain old "bureaucratic red tape."
A few simple examples can help illustrate the point. The FBI is responsible for investigating and solving crimes, not directly promulgating standards. OSHA is responsible for workplace safety standards, but may otherwise not take a comprehensive approach to mass casualty incidents, which would require coordinating law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, and post-incident recovery measures. FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security provide invaluable resources regarding Active Threat incidents, but may not deeply address topics such as "Hospital Preparedness" or post-incident victim assistance, such as mental health counseling or "Monetary Donation Management."
Enter the NFPA. Who is the NFPA?
Better known for fire safety codes, The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a global nonprofit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards.
Why the NFPA?
After the Pulse Nightclub massacre in June of 2016, Chief Otto Drozd of Orange County Fire in Florida requested that NFPA develop a standard to help authorities come together and create a well-defined, cohesive plan that works to minimize harm and maximize resiliency. NFPA responded by establishing the NFPA Technical Committee on Cross Functional Emergency Preparedness and Response. In mid-April, NFPA 3000 was issued by the NFPA Standards Council, making it the first consensus document related to active shooter and hostile events.
The 46-member Technical Committee responsible for NFPA 3000 is NFPA's largest startup Committee, to date, with representation from law enforcement, the fire service, emergency medical services, hospitals, emergency management, private security, private business, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Justice, and many more. Committee members provided job-specific insight and real world observations from mass killings at Mandalay Bay Resort, Pulse Nightclub, Sandy Hook Elementary, the Sikh Temple, the Boston Marathon, and other less publicized events.
Some have asked why NFPA would be the organization to develop an active shooter standard. "For more than a century, NFPA has facilitated a respected consensus process that has produced some of the most widely used codes and standards in the world including more than 100 that impact first responders. Our purview goes far beyond our fire safety efforts as evidenced by our ongoing work to address new hazards with professionals in public safety, emergency management, community risk, electrical services, the energy sector, engineering, the chemical and industrial industries, healthcare, manufacturing, research, the government, and the built environment. The recent increase in active shooter incidents and the fire service involvement in them warranted NFPA's standards development expertise, and the timely development of NFPA 3000," NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said.
NFPA 3000: The Standard
NFPA 3000 marks only the second time in NFPA's 122-year history that they have issued a provisional standard. Provisional standards are developed in an expedited process to address an emergency situation or other special circumstance.
The scope of this standard is limited to the necessary functions and actions related to preparedness, response, and recovery from an active shooter/hostile event response (ASHER). This standard applies to any community, authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), facility, and member of any organization who responds to or prepares for ASHER incidents.
The standard was written with all responders in mind, regardless of whether they are from large or small organizations, municipal or rural communities; all were well-represented by the vast number and diversity of the committee members. Active shooter and hostile events are dynamic and have not been prejudice to a jurisdiction's size or complexity.
NFPA 3000 helps entire communities organize, manage, communicate, and sustain an active shooter/hostile event preparedness, response, and recovery program; really all aspects of the process, from identifying hazards and assessing vulnerability to planning, resource management, incident management at a command level, competencies for first responders, and recovery.
Read NFPA 300 here: NFPA 3000™ (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program.
In addition to offering NFPA 3000 via a new digital subscription - which will be updated automatically when the next edition becomes available - NFPA is offering an Online Training Series (the first of three courses are available now); a downloadable checklist; a readiness assessment document; and fact sheet to learn more about establishing a proactive, collaborative active shooter/hostile event program. Learn more about the program.
The true takeaway, however, is to just start - start educating yourself and your staff by taking advantage of the tremendous depth of resources available. While NFPA 3000 strives to set the national standard, other resources should be reviewed and incorporated, where appropriate. Continue to utilize the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, the FBI and Secret Service resources, in addition to State of Illinois and County resources. The more comprehensive, the better!
About the Author: Michael Guzan is the Director of Compliance and Audit for MidCo Inc. He earned a joint MBA/Juris Doctorate from Loyola University Chicago in 2003. Michael is the Chair of BOMA/Suburban Chicago's Emergency Preparedness Committee and the current Treasurer for the Chicago Chapter of ASIS International, and is a member of the Chicago, Illinois, and American Bar Associations. Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.