For more than a decade, Immediate Action Rapid Deployment (IARD) has become the universal technique used by law enforcement to neutralize the active shooter. While IARD — a police tactic where first responders, typically regular police officers, actively confront a developing high-risk crisis — is the most widely accepted means of eliminating the threat, the unfortunate truth is first responders will always be at a disadvantage in a large populated environment; because until the shooter is eliminated, all areas are considered a hot zone and everyone in the area is an unknown.
As the threat continues to evolve so must the search for alternatives, which give law enforcement and security professionals any advantage to more rapidly identify, engage and eliminate the threat, while at the same time enhance officer safety and increase the survivability rate of innocents.
Identify, broadcast and engage: play-by-play
In any active shooter situation, there are two people who know precisely where the gunman is; the person doing the shooting, and the person who is being shot. While large populated areas such as shopping malls, airports, sporting events and concert halls support a target rich environment, oftentimes they possess a home field advantage through observation and command offices staffed by facility employees who are intimately familiar with both the facility’s closed circuit surveillance system (CCTV) camera systems and access control points.
Play-by-Play for the Active Shooter is observing an active shooter situation over the CCTV and then continuously broadcasting critical details over the public address system. From the moment an entry team is established, these observation centers are in the best position to identify and immediately begin broadcasting over the public address system the shooter’s location, description and direction of travel. They can also help determine if there is more than one shooter.
In doing so they are immediately letting the public know where the threat is, which can expedite the evacuation of civilians and thus reducing the amount of innocent people a response teamencounters from entry point to shooter engagement. Not only canPlay-by-Play reduce the number of civilians police can expect to encounter, it expedites an entry team to the threat and ultimately minimizes the amount of time needed to establish triage for the victims.
The concealed carry citizen
While the focus on threat engagement relies upon law enforcement to eliminate the threat, the reality is about half of all active shooter events are over long before police can arrive and establish an entry team. These seemingly random acts of violence are alarmingly more real than they have been in previous years as Lone Wolf attacks have become nearly impossible to detect; and it is for this reason Play-by-Play is a logical addition in the evolution of the active shooter mitigation toolkit.
Not only does Play-by-Play give the immediate response team and individual first responders a tactical advantage, it also provides an opportunity of engagement from the increasing number of citizens who are authorized to carry a firearm. The possibility of law enforcement first responders encountering and engaging a concealed-carry citizen during an active shooter event is a growing reality, and if there is any possibility of immediately leveraging or removing that variable Play-by-Play is one mechanism to do it. If an armed citizen chooses to take matters into their own hands, then the optimal outcome is for the armed citizen to engage the threat prior to the arrival of law enforcement and, at best, eliminate the gunman and reduce the civilian casualty rate by exchanging gunfire. The lawfully armed citizen is a growing reality, and instead of ignoring this variable, we should be finding ways to leverage it.
Incapacitating the threat
There are only two outcomes in the aftermath of an active shooter event: you either loose big or lose small. Just as law enforcement must work collaboratively with the private sector to embrace new ideas, there should also be a full court press to leverage the latest advancements in technologies. And whether it comes sooner or later, law enforcement and security professionals should consider advancements in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology — as off the shelf drones on the market today can not only deploy to an area faster than any response team, but most come equipped with state-of-the-art guidance and avoidance systems which makes them easier to navigate indoors and out.
Not only are drones easy to fly with practice, there are companies providing after-market options which can make it possible to equip them with counter-measures such as an incapacitating OC fogger. While the idea of outfitting a drone with OC spray may seem farfetched to some, I can think of no better way to more rapidly engage and incapacitate a threat. Drones are inexpensive, they are expendable, and one need only go to Youtube and type in “Drone Racing” to find out what a minimum wage high school or college student can do to enhance your active shooter mitigation toolkit.
Whether it’s Play-by-Play or the introduction of UAV technologies, if there is the slightest possibility a gunman turns his gun on a surveillance camera or a drone instead of a human being, the civilian casualty rate is reduced.
To be successful and counter this emerging threat will require an unprecedented collaborative effort and stronger partnerships between law enforcement and the private sector. While the home grown violent extremist controls the time and place to inflict mass casualties, there are many steps we can take to enhance the home field advantage and focus on a “lose small” outcome.
Jay Brainard is the Federal Security Director for Kansas in the Transportation Security Administration’s Office of Security Operations.