An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and other populated area. In most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.
Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP)
Exercise Design, Control, and Evaluation
Interagency multi-discipline scenario training arms responders with critical experience.
Development and enhance law enforcement measures associated with preventing and/ or responding to active shooter or complex mass casualty attacks
Suddenly the world’s next active shooter is at the school down the street, in your jurisdiction, and on your watch. The public, the media, and those in harm’s way have high expectations for a seamless response, prompt control, and decisive action.
Working together with a clear command structure and accountability of responders requires the kind of training and practice you just can’t get on the job every day. Coming out on top when the stakes are this high calls for special training and choreographed interaction between all responders. That’s where we come in.
C3 Pathways (HSEEP) — innovators in both live and simulation training — deliver the real-world instruction and hands-on exercises to master a crisis professionally and collaboratively.
Never is it more critical for law enforcement, fire, and EMS to work together seemlessly and effectively. Saving lives depends on it. Are law enforcement’s objectives mutually exclusive of fire and EMS objectives? Is it a good idea or even possible to share command of the scene? And where does the school official fit in?
Officers rapidly responding and dynamically forming move-to-contact teams create an accountability nightmare. Situational awareness is vital, and that includes knowing who is on-scene and their location. How many shooters? How many victims? How many hostages? Are there improvised explosive devices (IEDs)? What intelligence will you share with fire / EMS?
Through hands-on practice, law enforcement responders will benefit from a positive reinforcement coaching environment where FutureLE instructors share tips and tricks for rapidly organizing chaotic scenes, establishing and maintaining situational awareness and accountability, and working productively within a Unified Command structure.
Fire / EMS
Whether EMS is separate or combined with fire, the task at hand is incredibly difficult. What risks will Fire / EMS personnel take in efforts to reach and save victims? Do you know law enforcement’s procedures? If law enforcement establishes a safe zone inside the hot zone to shelter victims in place, will you permit fire / EMS personnel to be escorted through the hot zone to reach victims? Have you practiced Unified Command with law enforcement and know how to support each other?
Through hands-on practice, fire / EMS responders will benefit from a positive reinforcement coaching environment where C3 instructors share tips and tricks for improving performance, managing escalating and large incidents, working together, and communicating effectively.
C3 Pathways provide professional solutions to serve you so you can serve others — and save lives.
|t was a typical June day in Santa Monica, California—a hazy morning shrouded in what area weather forecasters like to call “June Gloom.” With summer vacation days away, children in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District were immersed in end-of-the year celebrations, while students at the high school and the city’s community college were preparing for graduation. Across town at a private residence, U.S. President Barack Obama was speaking at a fundraiser. But, by the day’s end, a violent incident would ultimately test the resolve of the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD), the city’s educational stakeholders, and the community at large.
Preparation Before the Crisis
Santa Monica, a bayside town with a population just over 90,000, is a small city operating in the shadow of nearby Los Angeles. With a police force of more than 200 sworn officers, the SMPD has made it a priority to train and work with local schools and community partners.1
To be prepared for active shooter situations, the SMPD regularly participates in comprehensive training, preparation, and coordination with the Santa Monica Fire Department, Santa Monica City Emergency Operations Center personnel, Santa Monica College Police Department (SMCPD), Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, the American Red Cross, and many other agencies and individuals.
“We know how valuable it is to simulate these situations and have our officers and support staff be put through the paces, so when a real incident occurs they can rely on their training,” says Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline A. Seabrooks. “And the training isn’t just for field staff. Civilian employees, assisting field personnel … everyone needs to be involved. A situation is going to present itself and there will be a response. The character of that response will be in direct proportion to the information and training the responders have had.”2
Early in 2013, officers underwent a joint training on active shooter response. Officers from the SMPD and the SMCPD focused specifically on moving across the terrain in small groups to neutralize threats, performing assessments of the terrain as they pass it, and learning the tactical communication that has to occur for the threat response to be direct, strategic, and surgical.
“The Santa Monica College Police Department and the City of Santa Monica Police Department have trained together for many years, anticipating our combined response to emergency situations on our campuses, including the threat of an active shooter,” says SMCPD Sergeant Raymond Bottenfield. “Representatives of both departments have walked together through the campuses to point out potential areas that an active shooter might target, identify access points for both vehicles and personnel, and have trained together through ‘active shooter’ classes involving everything from the mind-set of a shooter to drills incorporating a combined response to such a scenario. This type of inter-agency training has been ongoing since the inception of active shooter protocols in the post-Columbine era.”3
During the Active Shooter Incident
These proactive measures and collaborations were essential in putting a stop to a deadly shooting rampage that began just before noon on June 7, 2013. What started as a 9-1-1 call of shots fired and a home in flames quickly escalated into a cross-city active shooter situation with multiple crime scenes and multiple victims.4
The gunman, a 23-year-old male suffering from a mental illness, had shot and killed his father and brother before setting the family home on fire. Dressed in black fatigues and carrying an AR-15 rifle, a duffle bag with approximately 1,500 rounds of rifle ammunition, and a fully functional .44 caliber revolver, he made his way through the city, leaving terror and confusion in his wake.
In front of the smoldering remains of his family home, he attempted to carjack several passing vehicles, firing at the drivers who did not stop. A female driver did stop, mistakenly believing he was a police officer. The gunman entered her car and demanded she drive him to Santa Monica College—or he would kill her. During that short drive, he trained his rifle and fired upon cars and pedestrians and, at one point, got out of the commandeered vehicle to shoot at a city bus.
Upon arrival at the campus, he told the driver her job was done, and he let her drive away as he walked through campus, firing his gun indiscriminately. He took aim at an SUV, killing the driver instantly; the vehicle’s passenger died later at the hospital from a gunshot wound to the head. His next victim was a woman who was a fixture on campus. She was regularly seen collecting cans and other recyclables. The gunman killed her instantly with one round to the chest.
In the chaotic minutes that passed from the time the gunman left his home in flames and arrived at the college library, Santa Monica police flooded the area. In the confusion and pandemonium of the rapidly evolving incident, the first officers on the scene, SMPD officers Jason Salas and Robert Sparks, along with off-duty SMCPD Sergeant Raymond Bottenfield, quickly formulated a plan, and without delay or hesitation, headed to the college library to confront the very real threat posed by the gunman.
The officers entered the library’s open area, which afforded no cover. The two SMPD officers knew their body armor was likely insufficient to protect them from rounds fired from the gunman’s assault rifle, and Sergeant Bottenfield was particularly vulnerable as he was in plainclothes and was not wearing any form of ballistic protection. Once inside, the officers found themselves several feet from the gunman, who was taking aim at a student. The officers commanded him to drop his weapon. As the gunman turned toward the officers, the aim of his assault rifle moved from the student to them. All three officers fired, and the gunman returned fire. None of the officers were hit; the gunman died at the scene. Because the three officers relied on sound judgment, tactics, and their previous training, they were able to permanently end the threat.5
Despite the imminent danger and the true likelihood of serious injury, these officers stopped the murderous rampage 13 minutes after it began and approximately 4 minutes after the gunman arrived on the college campus.6
“Given the intensity of what they were addressing, the information that we did not have, and what was evolving on the fly at seven-plus crime scenes…” says Chief Seabrooks, “The officers did exactly what they were trained to do. They were able to address the significance of the threat as they moved in, even as that threat was focusing on them.”7
“When we were faced with the ultimate test of our training and working relationships, there was no hesitation or doubt as we worked as a team to address the terror that visited our campus on June 7, 2013,” reflects Sergeant Bottenfield.8
The teamwork of the SMPD and SMCPD officers neutralized the immediate threat of the active shooter, but the day’s work was far from over. The information gathering was hindered by the large scope of the crime scene, which stretched over a mile and a half, and multiple reports of additional shooters, which later proved to be erroneous. A clear and accurate overview of the event was difficult to develop even after the actual threat was eliminated. The difficulty in gathering accurate information during the initial response phase of an event is common, and the fact that this incident concluded on a large college campus that was fully populated added to the challenge.An unexpected element that worked in the favor of the SMPD was the presidential visit. Although, at first, concerns arose about the possibility of the shooting being a diversion for an assassination attempt, once the incident was validated, key SMPD personnel, who were in town and on duty, were able to provide specialized tactical resources in close proximity to the event, which may not have otherwise been as readily available.
“This active shooter incident happened against the backdrop of the presidential visit,” Chief Seabrooks says. “We had the Secret Service here; every law enforcement agency knew that the president was going to be in Santa Monica, so when the shooting happened, everyone descended on us to provide assistance.”9
Communication with Schools
As events unfolded that day, SMPD instructed the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to place all of the Santa Monica schools on lockdown status. Exemplary communications within the school district led to the fast lockdown and securing of district facilities. This was implemented in an abundance of caution and proved to be an important decision. Several schools were located in close proximity to the mile-and-a-half long crime scene. As the gunman traveled through Santa Monica, schools were potentially placed in harm’s way. Additionally, the gunman fired multiple rounds next to Virginia Avenue Park, where dozens of school events were being held.
Management section staff were in constant contact with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District throughout the event, and the district superintendent was in regular contact with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) director to facilitate releasing the schools from lockdown. The district’s communication with the EOC director was instrumental in releasing the students at Santa Monica High School early enough that day to enable their graduation activities to proceed that evening, as planned, which was an important step in the community’s overall recovery and return to a sense of normalcy. A family assistance center was also set up at the school district’s headquarters, and many students were evacuated to that location.
There was a conscious decision made to ensure that this incident didn’t have more of an impact on the community then it already had. Press conferences were held throughout the weekend to calm the community members and assure them that Santa Monica was safe.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the Santa Monica community banded together to support each other and recover. At Santa Monica College, a special memorial was held for students and staff to remember lives lost, comfort each other, and share a moment of silence. Mental health counseling was provided to students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community. More than 300 “mental health encounters” were provided on campus following the incident. The college hired crime scene clean-up crews that began cleaning and making repairs on Sunday so that most of the campus was able to re-open on Monday morning.10
Drop-in counseling services were also provided at nearby Virginia Avenue Park so that community members who needed help processing what had happened would have access to resources. City staff, community partners, and many service providers, as well as the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, put together additional services to assist in the healing of the community in the days and weeks following the incident.
The officers and support staff who were involved in the incident also got the help they needed. “In any critical incident involving multiple deaths or an officer-involved shooting, the department mandates therapeutic counseling to mitigate the potential for post-trauma stress and to facilitate employee health and well-being,” says Chief Seabrooks.11
Lessons Learned and Best Practices
It is clear to the agencies and officers involved that prior joint training was responsible for the quick conclusion of this violent incident and limited the number of potential victims. Additionally, the training of the support roles from all disciplines involved in this response, including law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, emergency operations center personnel, and others, were a determining factor in the overall response. The SMPD and SMCPD clearly benefited from participating in recent active shooter training.12
“There were many heroes on that day, and we learned that the active shooter training we had put into place for our employees actually saved many lives in the library. We also learned that the training and collaborative efforts between our campus police department and the City of Santa Monica Police Department was extremely valuable, and it has become a model for other college and university police departments with their municipal counterparts,” says SMCPD Chief Albert Vasquez.13
Additional active shooter trainings have been a priority for the SMPD since the June 7, 2013, incident. In February 2014, SMPD, the Santa Monica Fire Department, Santa Monica Office of Emergency Management, Macerich Corporation, members of the Santa Monica Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and Allied Barton (mall security) all teamed up for a realistic anti-terrorism exercise. The realism of the drill was unparalleled, from a sound-diversion device leading officers to a car that appeared to have blown up to volunteers acting as victims with movie-caliber special effects makeup used to create realistic-looking wounds. Two “active shooters” moved through the Santa Monica Place shopping mall, allowing officers and SWAT team members to test tactics such as traversing large areas safely and quickly and promptly locating and responding to ongoing and mobile threats while facilitating enhanced coordination and communication with other assisting agencies.14
“If another law enforcement agency asked me for advice on how to prepare for an active shooter situation…” says Seabrooks. “I would say train. Train … and then train some more.”15
This advice echoes what the Federal Bureau of Investigation found in a recent study on active shooter incidents. Recognizing the increased active shooter threat and the swiftness with which active shooter incidents unfold, the study supports the importance of training and exercises—not only for law enforcement officers, but also for citizens. It is important, too, that training and exercises include an understanding of not only the threats faced, but also the risks and options available in active shooter incidents.16
Another change in Santa Monica that has been implemented since this incident is joint training between paramedics and the SMPD SWAT team. The shooting demonstrated that there was no plan in place should the officers conducting a search of the college campus come across an injured civilian.17 Now, there is a specially trained team, known as Santa Monica’s Tactical Emergency Medical Support (TEMS) team. They currently are training with and will be embedded with the SMPD SWAT team.
The incident also revealed the need for resources to both protect officers during an active shooter situation and save any victims of shootings. As a result of the post-incident after action report, enhancements to the police mobile command unit were effectuated to ensure that all resources needed to handle critical incidents would be readily available.
The fire department and paramedics have also updated their equipment to be prepared for active shooter incidents. “We’ll be equipped with the same protective gear as SWAT and trained to work in the midst of the crime scene, which will allow us to render care a lot sooner,” says Justin Crosson, a Santa Monica Fire Engineer and one of the founding TEMS members. “We want to provide the best care possible and save lives. And we can do that by being on the scene with victims rather than waiting for them to be brought to us.”18
Following the incident, two significant responses occurred. First, elected officials at regional, state, and local levels began addressing gun violence and working together to identify ways that they could reduce the likelihood and impacts of mass shootings. In the weeks following June 7, 2013, a gun safety summit was convened in Santa Monica by U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman.19 This event was attended by local officials, as well as state and federal experts. The result of this summit was a bill sponsored by the congressman to reduce access to the types of weapons used by the Santa Monica gunman.20
Secondly, the City of Santa Monica’s Office of Emergency Management took the lead in authoring a review of the city’s response to the incident. The observations in this review provide an understanding of the incident and help in preparations for possible future events, both locally and in other jurisdictions. The findings are grouped into four categories: (1) Communications and Notifications; (2) Incident Command Systems Protocols and Trainings; (3) Response and Recovery Logistics; and (4) Community Recovery.21
There is no way to predict when or where random acts of violence are going to occur, but chances are that most departments may face the same sort of senseless episode that gripped the Santa Monica community on June 7, 2013. Through proper preparation, training, and collaboration with community partners, the magnitude of such an incident can be drastically lessened, and the foundation will be in place for effective response and recovery. ♦
Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist
A Validated Active Shooter Checklist
The Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist is designed for basic complexity through moderate complexity Active Shooter Events in a generic approach suitable for most communities. However, the Checklist will not be suitable for ALL communities. Each agency must evaluate if this Active Shooter Checklist is appropriate for their community, their staffing, and their risk.
In June 2013, C3 Pathways published a document on Active Shooter Incident Management Best Practices based on observations from a series of Active Shooter training exercises. In large part, we developed the document because what we thought we knew to be true about Active Shooter Response and Active Shooter Incident Management turned out to be untrue. Perhaps a better way to say it would be that we discovered, quite by accident, that there were better ways to manage Active Shooter Events than what we thought “we knew to be true.”
This realization caused our team to start over at the beginning and question everything. Along the way, we discovered a number of things. An important first step was building an accurate model of a typical Active Shooter Event, which we did based largely on the incredible research work of ALERRT – the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training at Texas State University. We also spent a tremendous amount of time looking at how to integrate the law enforcement and EMS response to an Active Shooter Event (ASE) and approaches to the incident management of Active Shooter Events. We did this work starting from scratch without assumptions, and specifically without the assumption that a rapid Unified Command was the best approach. What we observed from the UNF exercises suggested that early Unified Command slowed the response, which after all is what started us down this road.
The Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist is the culmination of our work thus far. The Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist has been validated for design, content, format, and usability.
Four separate validations were conducted on the Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist prior to publication. Three validations focused on design and format based on aviation emergency checklist design and usability, human factors engineering, and evaluative methodologies. The final validation focused on content, the logical order of items, and usability based on feedback from 121 responders who used the Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist in live Active Shooter training exercises. Information about the validation process are in the published validation document available for review.
There is still much more work to be done. Checklists are living items that must be periodically reviewed, updated, and improved — especially through user feedback and actual experience. There is additional information available on our web site to aid in understanding the Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist concepts and how to use the Checklist.
Exercise, Control, and Evaluation
Man-Machine Systems Assessment Homeland Security & Emergency Management Division
HSEEP Compliant Training & Exercises
- MSA Homeland Security & Emergency Management staff experts are certified by DHS in the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP)
- MSA exercises and materials are HSEEP compliant
- Exercise signage and all applicable forms are included in exercise development
Realistic Exercise Development
Our programs accurately simulate the stress, urgency, and consequences of an active shooter scenario by enveloping participants in the sights and sounds of an incident.
- We design visually stunning exercises, incorporating moulage and props.
- We create a soundscape that emulates an actual incident, reproducing a variety of auditory distractions.
- We coach the victims/actors to respond authentically, based on real victim experiences.
Public Information & Mock Press Conferences
Studies have shown that information is more vital than food or water during emergencies. Our preparedness training includes exercises for public information distribution.
- Mock press conferences—including fake journalists, video cameras, instant playback, and interview critiques—simulate the pressures of communicating in an emergency.
- Social media and mass information distribution training exercises prepare you to deliver vital information across a wide array of communication platforms, reaching as many people as possible when disaster strikes.
C3 Pathways helps organizations improve response in a crisis or emergency situation. Through consulting and innovative training program delivery, we coach emergency responders across all disciplines such as police, fire-rescue, EMS, and Emergency Management agencies to be the best they can be. We also build scenario-based readiness programs for school campuses, transit systems, hospitality venues, industrial sites, hospitals, and at-risk workplaces. IDENTIFYING: We work with public officials, facility and/or risk managers to explore, profile, and identify risks warranting emergency preparedness efforts. PLANNING:
The C3 team works closely with all parties responsible to work together in an emergency to craft durable plans for managing and mitigating the impacts of a major incident. TRAINING: C3 develops adaptive training programs for public safety and private sector responders, including hands-on live-action scenario-driven training on the National Incident Management System (NIMS), Incident Command, Unified Command programs, and all hazards incidents. EVALUATION: C3 offers a spectrum of HSEEP compliant exercises combining simultaneous live action in the real world and the virtual world (school, rail station, hospital, ship, system, etc), enabling highly realistic responder dynamics, communication, scenarios, and a real-world feel not found anywhere else. IMPROVEMENT: C3 offers development of response plans, training, best practices, and help implementing change.
High Fidelity Simulation Training, Incident Management and Unified Command, Mass Casualty Incidents, Disaster Exercises, Administrative and Operational Consulting.
1City of Santa Monica Office of Emergency Management (OEM), City of Santa Monica June 7th, 2013, Shooting Incident, summary report (March 2014), 3–4, http://www.smgov.net/uploadedFiles/Departments/OEM/Video_Archive/Santa%20Monica%20Shooting%20Experience%20verFeb%202014.pdf (accessed January 15, 2015).
2Jacqueline A. Seabrooks (chief of police, Santa Monica, CA), interview, December 3, 2014.
3Raymond Bottenfield (sergeant, Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, CA), email interview, December 9, 2014.
4Anna Almendrala and Kathleen Miles, “Santa Monica College Shooting Leaves Five Dead Including Suspect, Several Others Wounded,” Huffington Post, updated June 11, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/07/santa-monica-college-shooting_n_3404689.html (accessed January 15, 2015).
5City of Santa Monica OEM, City of Santa Monica June 7th, 2013, Shooting Incident, 9.
6Rudy Camarena (sergeant, Santa Monica, CA), email interview, January 30, 2015.
7Jacqueline A. Seabrooks, interview, December 3, 2014.
8Raymond Bottenfield, email interview, December 9, 2014.
9Jacqueline A. Seabrooks, interview, December 3, 2014.
10Jason Islas, “Santa Monica College Recovers After Friday’s Shootout,” Santa Monica Lookout, June 11, 2013, http://www.surfsantamonica.com/ssm_site/the_lookout/news/News-2013/June-2013/06_11_2013_Santa_Monica_College_Recovers_After_Fridays_Shootout.html (accessed January 15, 2015).
11Jacqueline A. Seabrooks, interview, December 3, 2014.
12City of Santa Monica OEM, City of Santa Monica June 7th, 2013, Shooting Incident, 9.
13Santa Monica College Police Department, 2013 Annual Security Report Santa Monica College, http://www.smc.edu/StudentServices/Police/Documents/2013%20Annual%20Security%20Report2.pdf (accessed January 30, 2015).
14Jay Moroso, “Enhanced Active Shooter Training,” Santa Monica Police Department press release, November 25, 2013, http://santamonicapd.org/Content.aspx?id=45173 (accessed January 14, 2015).
15Jacqueline A. Seabrooks, interview, December 3, 2014.
16U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013 (Washington D.C.: Washington Navy Yard, September 16, 2013), http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2014/september/fbi-releases-study-on-active-shooter-incidents/pdfs/a-study-of-active-shooter-incidents-in-the-u.s.-between-2000-and-2013 (accessed December 22, 2014).
17City of Santa Monica OEM, City of Santa Monica June 7th, 2013, Shooting Incident, 26.
18Justin Crosson (firefighter, Santa Monica, CA, and founding member, TEMS), email interview, December 12, 2014.
19Committee on Energy and Commerce Democratic Staff to Henry A. Waxman, Memorandum, “Forum on ‘Gun Violence, Mental Health, and Community Recovery: Responses to the June 7, 2013, Santa Monica Shootings,’” July 10, 2013, 113th Congress, U.S. House of Representatives, http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Memo-Forum-Gun-Violence-Santa-Monica-2013-7-10.pdf (accessed December 22, 2014).
20Committee on Energy and Commerce, “Rep. Waxman Convenes Forum on Gun Violence and Mental Health,” news release, July 15, 2013, http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?q=news/rep-waxman-convenes-forum-on-gun-violence-and-mental-health (accessed on December 22, 2014).
21City of Santa Monica OEM, City of Santa Monica June 7th, 2013, Shooting Incident.