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When Police Arrive

Understanding and Preparing for Police Response

The active shooter call will bring a multi-agency response. Uniformed officers will normally be the first on the scene; however this is not always true. Detectives and other plain clothed officers will hear the radio call and respond to the call as well. Most plain-clothed officers will wear something that will identify themselves as a police officer but these are sometimes subtle. It is important to understand this when the guy that looks like a drug dealer (because he is an undercover detective) is giving you a command and holding a weapon. Look at the person's waistband or around his neck for a badge or identification.

It is important for you to know that law enforcement works off priorities during an active shooter call. Their first priority is to move in, bypassing wounded and confronting the shooter. Once the shooter has been stopped, they will then begin providing medical aid to those most seriously injured, and clearing the remainder of the building of any potential threats and injured victims.

It is also important to understand that these scenes will be chaotic. Try to understand the scene from the officers'  points of view.  They do not know who you are and have been trained to treat everyone as "unknown" until they have positively identified you as no threat. Officers will also be experiencing high levels of stress and,  just like the general public, some handle these situations better than others.

It is vital that you respond to the officers appropriately.  Keep your hands visible at all times unless otherwise ordered. Follow all commands, regardless of whether you think their commands are reasonable or not. You should be prepared to be handcuffed or restrained in your movement. If you know of another  threat inside the area, notify officers of the threat as soon as practical.  You may be asked to do something against your internal policy. The officer's orders trump your company or school policies.  Do what they say.

Medical Issues
In most circumstances,  emergency medical service personnel will not enter the scene until it has been deemed safe by law enforcement. This means that law enforcement and others trapped inside the structure  will have  to be the initial medical providers for many of the victims. Gunshot wounds and other penetrating trauma causes bleeding, sometimes massive bleeding that must be quickly controlled. You may be asked by law enforcement to assist. If you are willing and capable of helping, let them know and then follow their instructions.

Preparing for the Aftermath
Understand that this will be a traumatic event. Expect that even if you escape the event unscathed physically, you will more than likely experience both mental and emotional trauma. Many survivors of active shooter events report having symptoms of shock, nightmares, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and survivor's guilt. It is important that companies, schools and communities have critical incident stress management plans to deal with these often unseen wounds that occur because of the event. 

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