Once the police tape has been taken down and the memorial services concluded, somehow the surivors of a mass casualty or active shooter event have to find a way to somehow move on.
But how can these survivors adapt to this “New Normal?”
- the need to have established guidelines for reunification after a crisis,
- the Family Assistance Center Model,
- victim services and assistance,
- impact on the community as well as counseling services and the role they play.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors: Mark, you’ve presented already about the first two phases of an intruder/mass casualty event: Planning, and Response. Without giving away the whole presentation, what is the Recovery phase?
Mark Warren: The recovery phase starts once the shooting stops and continues from that point forward. Personally, I can’t put an end time on the recovery phase because, honestly, people are never the same after something like this has happened.
In the immediate recovery phase, we are getting injured the help they need, figuring out how to evacuate people from the area, establishing reunification points to get families back together, counseling services are set up, crime scene investigation is ongoing, etc. The intermediate recovery phase will continue with what is not completed in the initial portion, autopsies will be performed, funeral services will be held, memorial services throughout the community, once all processing is completed on the crime scene and it is relinquished the investigation continues but now the facility managers and leadership have to start evaluating the damage to the building and plan to repair and/or replace the structure.
People will continue through counseling, potential lawsuits will be filed, people will attempt to go on with their daily lives but are forever changed.
… People are never the same after something like this has happened.
JCH: Many people might simply forget – or neglect – to address the recovery phase in their planning. Why do you think that is?
Mark: I really think it has to do with our mindset. We cannot accept that something like this could even happen, and if we do we plan for the incident we stop with the initial response. We believe that the police are going to come and stop the killing, then the medical personnel are going to rescue the injured and the police will take over the crime scene and tell everyone what needs to be done.
This is an incorrect and inaccurate belief. There is no way the police can have a plan for every business, school, church or institution in their jurisdiction and much of this will fall on the entity. They need to have a thorough plan in place that covers all of the phases and identify possible locations to use in the recovery phase to set up for reunification, media locations, command posts and they will be part of the Incident Command System.
These assumptions affect all of us. As police officers, we viewed our role as getting in as fast as possible and stop the killer and we were done. Then EMS would just walk in and treat the injured. We had to learn the hard way that was not the case and possibly lost victims who could have lived if they had gotten the assistance and treatment they needed sooner. So we changed and we are now training our officers in Crisis Casualty Care and triage. We are working with EMS and Fire on the Rescue Task Force theory but there is so much that could be done if everyone understands and receives training for their role.
What I mean is, people should take responsibility to understand that until the police, fire, and EMS get there — they are the first responder. They need to know how to respond to the initial attack to keep themselves safe, once safe how to provide immediate self-care or buddy care to others to save lives. Preparation removes a lot of anxiety that people feel when discussing this topic.
Until the police, fire, and EMS get there — they are the first responder.
They need to know how to respond to the initial attack to keep themselves safe,
… [and] provide immediate self-care or buddy care to others to save lives.
JCH: An organization or community could still plan for the Recovery Phase, just as they might prepare for prevention. How have you seen communities or organizations include this in their planning?
Mark: We have been involved in a revolutionary project for a large metropolitan county that has shown incredible potential and promise. In this project, we are bringing all of the stakeholders from the community together to train on Intruder Response. We have business owners and leaders, church leaders, school leaders, hospital leaders and personnel, police officers and command staff, fire personnel and command staff, EMS personnel and local government leaders.
In this two-day class, we discuss the various phases and people are able to see how they could be impacted by an incident but also how they could help during an incident. The discussion that results is incredible and with knowledge comes an understanding of how they can better protect and serve their community. It isn’t up to one organization it is up to the entire community. By identifying the needs and resources available in the community these entities have better plans moving forward in all phases of the incident but in the recovery phase, they now are discussing Memos of Understanding so if something happens they can rely on the other entity to assist. Think of it as a “treaty” between two countries but on a smaller scale. In police jargon, we are showing them how to set up “mutual aid” agreements in advance.
I really hope to work myself out of a job one day.
JCH: Mark, you help people prepare for the unthinkable. What keeps you motivated and inspired to do the work you do?
Mark: I have to admit, making this one of our life’s work can get disheartening when you hear of another incident in the news. I feel that many times, people have either been killed or injured because of a lack of knowledge. But with each incident, we understand we may have someone else who realizes and accepts the risk and they will need help going in the correct direction and making the right decisions.
I always loved my job as a police officer and helping people but today I love my job more than ever, knowing that each time I may be affecting someone’s life during a crisis. I tell people all of the time, I hate it that we are good at this and I really hope to work myself out of a job one day. We will continue to study incidents, learn from them so that we can help others avoid the same pitfalls.