NFPA 3000 is a Critical Resource for all Fire and EMS Departments

By George Stevens

It is a sad reality that active shooter incidents are becoming more prevalent, and today’s fire and emergency departments need to be prepared to respond to these events. Following the Pulse Night Club shooting in Orlando in 2016, Orange County (FL) Fire Rescue Chief Otto Drozd III requested that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) develop a standard to deal with active shooter events.

The first meeting of the Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program Technical Committee was held on June 14, 2017, in Boston. The committee was chaired by Richard Serino, former deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, former Chief of Boston EMS, and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Harvard University. The more than 40 members of the committee included representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Defense, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Volunteer Fire Council, fire service, law enforcement, EMS agencies, hospitals, universities, and others.

Due to the immediate need for the new standard, the NFPA followed the expedited process of a provisional standard (PS), the second in the organization’s 122-year history. In April 2018, NFPA 3000 (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter / Hostile Event Response Program was released. The Technical Committee is currently working on the next edition of the standard, which will be released in 2021.

NFPA 3000 is designed to guide law enforcement, security, fire and EMS personnel, hospitals, and facilities in planning for, responding to, and recovering from active shooter and hostile events that happen in communities ranging from rural to metropolitan. Events may range from a single shooter at one location to multiple assailants using not only firearms but also explosives, toxic substances, vehicles used as weapons, fire used as a weapon, or combinations thereof.

Active shooter and hostile events require a coordinated, multi-agency response. By formulating a consensus standard that includes all the public safety and emergency response disciplines, communities can be better prepared for these devastating events. Active shooter and hostile events can happen anywhere – from big cities such as Las Vegas, where 58 people lost their lives in a 2017 shooting, to small towns like Newtown, CT, where 26 students and teachers lost their lives in a 2012 shooting – and responders need to be ready.

Following the guidance of NFPA 3000 can and will save lives. Volunteer fire departments should actively work with other agencies in their community to adopt and implement this standard.

Some of the considerations outlined in the standard include the following.

• Assessing the Risk: What are the high-risk facilities, such as schools, churches, courthouses, and hospitals, that are in your community?

• Planning: Has your department worked with other agencies to develop emergency operation plans and standard operating guidelines to safely and effectively respond to ASHER incidents? Has your department established relationships with other agencies to develop and maintain mutual aid agreements and memorandums of understanding with other agencies?

• Resource Management: Does your department have an adequate number of trained personnel to deal with an ASHER incident or do you have mutual aid agreements in place? Does the ambulance provider know how to request more ambulances than they usually need in an overload situation?

• Incident Management: In the event of an ASHER incident, will your department participate in establishing a Unified Command System consisting of fire, EMS, law enforcement, emergency management, and other agencies as needed?

• Facility Preparedness: Have you made high risk facilities in your jurisdiction aware of NFPA 3000 and worked with the facility to come in compliance with the facility preparedness chapter of the standard? This will also provide an opportunity for your department to become familiar with the facility and advocate for the facility to strategically locate bleeding control kits.

• Competencies for Fire and EMS Responders: Do your firefighters understand ASHER hot, warm, and cold zones? Do your firefighters understand threat-based care? Are your firefighters trained to these standards: Tactical Emergency Casualty Care Guidelines for First Responders with a Duty to Act and Tactical Emergency Casualty Care Guidelines for BLS/ALS Medical Providers? Do your firefighters have the other competencies required in Chapter 13 of NFPA 3000?

• Personnel Protective Equipment: Firefighters and EMS personnel working in the warm zone need to have ballistic protection tested to NIJ, FBI, and DEA standards and an identifying garment. Firefighters working in the cold zone need to have an identifying garment. Firefighters responding to an ASHER incident need to be aware of all of the requirements of Chapter 14 of NFPA 3000.

• Training: A successful ASHER requires joint training by all participating agencies. Chapter 15 of NFPA 3000 provides recommendations and requirements.

• Public Education: Public Education may well be the most important part of NFPA 3000. Fire departments in all communities need to raise awareness of the risks and how the public can minimize their risk. Many good educational programs are available to deal with active shooter and hostile events, such as from the Ready Campaign and the Stop the Bleed program.

Access NFPA 3000 for free on the NFPA web site. Keep abreast of the changing nature of ASHER by watching the news about such events and reading published After Action Reports.

Although outside of the scope of NFPA 3000, many are advocating for schools, churches, businesses, etc. to have an armed security force. You should know the policy in effect at these facilities in your jurisdiction.

George Stevens has served as a volunteer firefighter/first responder on Pine Ridge Volunteer Fire Department since 1986. He serves as Mississippi Director to the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), chairs the NVFC Homeland Security Committee, and represents the NVFC on the NFPA 3000 Committee. He is also serving as president of the Mississippi Volunteer Firefighters Association and works as fire coordinator for Lamar County.