Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on March 1, 2019.

Missing the Mark

Experts say a new report on the parkland shooting lacks ems and fire input, as well as the ‘whole-community’ approach of NFPA 3000


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In January, a public safety commission tasked with investigating the February 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSDHS) shooting in Parkland, Florida, presented its findings to state officials.

But public safety experts say the report misses the mark, and they are critical of the commission for not including fire or emergency medical services responders among its members.

In its 439-page report, the commission found, among other things, that the “lack of a clearly identified command post” and issues related to radio communication challenged first responders on the day of the shooting. The event left 17 students, teachers, and administrators dead, and was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States in 2018.

The findings of the MSDHS Public Safety Commission—a group formed about a month after the shooting and made up of law enforcement officials, education leaders, parents of victims, and others—also include recommendations on how communities can best prepare for mass shootings and other hostile events.

While the recommendations partly draw on the guidance found in NFPA 3000™ (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, NFPA staff and other public safety professionals say the report lacks the “whole-community” approach of the standard, which was released last May.

According to John Montes, the NFPA staff liaison to NFPA 3000, while the report highlights unified command and integrated response, two of the four main themes of the standard, the report is limited because it focuses primarily on law enforcement. “Everything is viewed from that lens,” he said, noting that it is missing the perspective of other responders such as fire and EMS, as well as those of citizens, health care professionals, and victims—the “whole-community” approach outlined in NFPA 3000.

That limited focus compromised the work of the commission, said Montes, who wasn’t the only public safety professional critical of the report. Dave Downey, fire chief in Miami-Dade, Florida, and a member of the NFPA 3000 technical committee, also noted the law enforcement-centric nature of the report and the commission. “I’m disappointed this was called a public safety commission even though there was no representation from fire or EMS,” he said.

The report makes it clear that the commission’s primary focus was law enforcement. A goal of the group, for example, was to “provide recommendations for improvements for law enforcement and school resource officer response,” according to the report.

By contrast, NFPA 3000 emphasizes that mass shootings and other hostile events aren’t just a problem for law enforcement, and that every public safety agency plays an integral role in the planning for, response to, and recovery from these incidents.

Perhaps the biggest shortfall of the report, Montes said, is its lack of information related to the recovery aspect of mass shootings and other hostile events, such as establishing reunification centers and providing mental health services to responders. “Recovery is the longest-lasting phase, but the one that is most frequently ignored,” Montes said.

ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: Getty Images