As the nation grapples with the loss of 34 lives, let's fuel forward-thinking action



Gilroy, California. El Paso, Texas. Dayton, Ohio. In the span of 10 days, news outlets have reported on three horrific active shooter incidents that have claimed the lives of 34, wounded 63, and rattled the American public to its core. Again.

Whether we identify as a private citizen, first responder, parent, community leader, medical personnel, or list ourselves among the many professionals charged with protecting people at public events, on campuses, in business environments, at entertainment venues, or in commercial settings – we are sad, frustrated, and feel, at times, the same sense of not being able to do more in the wake of these tragedies.

We may be heartbroken but we are not helpless. Preparedness is where we can all do something right now.

Every community is painfully recognizing that they must address preparedness in some way, shape or form. Some are training together, and others are expanding efforts to include key influencers beyond traditional police, fire and EMS response. They are looking at an intensive investigation, communications coordination, and starting to realize that recovery is the hardest, most enduring phase of one of these incidents. We applaud all of this – and underscore the need for it – and a lot more. We also know that very few are doing all that it takes to address hostile events before, during, and after chaos unfolds.

So, what is it that you can do? Start by asking questions, questions that lead to action. Is your city or town well-versed on whole community guidance so that it can prepare, respond, and recover from active shooter and hostile events? That should be the first question you pose to local authorities; and here are some others to continue the conversation that is necessary today:

  • Do police, fire, EMS and federal authorities have a plan to work together to address threats and access victims as quickly and safely as possible?
  • Do first responders have the ability to access your business, school, or place of work quickly in the event of an emergency?
  • What training is offered for civilian response to active shooter incidents?
  • How will victims of loved ones receive notification at home, school or work, if there is an incident?
  • Are local hospitals in communication with responders, and can they handle a surge of victims?
  • Beyond responders, who else should be sitting at the table for key preparedness discussions?
  • How will officials notify families and support them in the aftermath with security?
  • Has learning about “Stop the Bleed” or “Avoid, Deny, Defend” been encouraged in your community?
  • Are you registered to volunteer for a CERT team or your local Medical Reserve Corps?
  • Is your city or town prepared for the level of counseling that will be needed for recovery?
  • Are you prepared to handle an onslaught of donations, media, and outside resources?
  • Is there a continuity of operations plan in place where you live or work?

To be fair, many communities have answers to some of these questions; but many don't have all the answers and far too many are without formalized plans. As new details about the three horrific incidents are learned – refuse to numb yourself to the violence. Instead, let your frustration fuel the forward-thinking action that is needed now on a local level.

There are many resources available to help communities face this growing threat.

Here are some: 

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Jim Pauley
President & CEO of NFPA