Author(s): John Montes. Published on May 1, 2018.

Threat Preparation

A new voice takes on the “First Responder” column and offers an inside view of the development of the groundbreaking NFPA 3000™ (PS)

Nothing really prepares you for the first time you confront an active threat incident. I’ve responded to dozens of shootings as an emergency medical technician, but one from early in my career stands out.

One night, my partner and I were sent to aid people injured in a fight at a block party in Boston. When we arrived, police on scene told us it was safe to enter, but I guess nobody told the people fighting. Someone pulled a firearm, and suddenly we were caught in the middle of a shooting. That was the moment I understood that, even if a crime scene seems secure, it can remain dynamic and subject to rapid change—never let your guard down, always have a way out, and always be ready.

Today responders are encountering active shooter/hostile event situations with unprecedented frequency, a trend that shows no sign of slowing. These shootings occur in big cities and small towns, from Florida to California. They happen at concerts, in churches, and in schools and shopping malls. They are unpredictable and require split-second life or death decision making and coordination from responders.

This reality is why NFPA’s new standard, NFPA 3000™ (PS), Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, is so critical. The document, which was released as a provisional standard May 1, creates a framework for communities and first responders to work together to prepare themselves and the public for these events, with the goal of reducing deaths and injuries.

As NFPA staff liaison to the project, I’ve spent the past year guiding a 46-member committee comprising representatives from federal and local law enforcement, EMS, fire, emergency management, health care, facility management, and more. Members have a wealth of knowledge and experience—they include responders to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and the recent shooting in Las Vegas—but many knew nothing about NFPA or the consensus process when they began. It didn’t take them long to get down to business, however. During meetings, they shared their experiences with each other: what went right and what went wrong during incidents, and how they can improve their response to those events. Soon, they were working as partners toward a common goal.

People still ask me why the National Fire Protection Association is developing a standard on active shooter events. The simple answer is, “Who better to do it?” For years, NFPA has taken on challenging, multidisciplinary issues, in part thanks to our proven track record of bringing together a broad representation of the community and our process of developing consensus standards. When NFPA asked the public in 2016 if an active shooter standard was needed and if we should create one, we received more than 100 public comments in less than three months, with 97 percent supporting the effort. We received 103 applications from people seeking to serve on the 3000 technical committee, the most ever for a new standard.

Just as NFPA’s committees and initiatives are becoming more diverse, this column—which I’ve inherited from its previous author, the newly retired Ken Willette—will also adopt a slightly wider focus. It will still address issues facing the fire service, but as an EMT with 18 years of experience, I will also take on issues that impact responders of all stripes. Not surprisingly, many of the things impacting the fire service also affect other responders.

I talk to responders from a range of backgrounds every day about ways to innovate and improve our response systems and methods. I am excited for the opportunity to share these thoughts and ideas with you in upcoming columns.

JOHN MONTES is specialist, Emergency Services Public Fire Protection, at NFPA.