Staying in Your Lane

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Episode 29: Staying in Your Lane

A discussion about staying in your lane during active shooter events and what that means.

Bill Godfrey:

Welcome back to our next podcast. Today's topic, we're going to talk about staying in your lane for active shooter events and what that means. Thanks for joining us today. My name is Bill Godfrey. I'm the host of your podcast, one of the instructors here at C3 Pathways. I'm joined with us by three fabulous other instructors, Robert McMahan.

Robert McMahan:

Hi Bill. How are you doing?

Bill Godfrey:

Good. Good. Good to have you here, Robert. Thanks for coming down. We have Adam Pendley.

Adam Pendley:

Yes, sir. Thank you for having me.

Bill Godfrey:

Thanks for being heard, Adam. And Mark Rhame.

Mark Rhame:

Thank you for having me.

Bill Godfrey:

All right, guys. So today we're going to talk about staying in your lane, which really is our way of talking about span of control and why that matters. And it's not because it's just an ICS NIMS thing, there's actually a really, really practical fashion here. Mark, why don't you start us off kind of give the overview and talk about why that matters and we'll go from.

Mark Rhame:

Let me first talk about the fire service as it relates to span of control. It is very easy if you have too many units or too many personnel that are working directly under you and you've exceeded what we generally consider a span of control, whether it's units or personnel, to lose control. I mean, literally not know where they're at, accountability goes out the window.

So when we bring it over to ASIM, Active Shooter Incident Management environment, when we break down our teams, and we have a tactical officer who's handling all the contact teams, and a triage officer handling all the RTF, send a transport officer handling all the ambulances, it makes the scene so much cleaner and easier to control if you only talk and direct those teams that are reporting directly to you. Now, I know there'll be overlap occasionally if a portable radio goes down or someone has to step out of the room, someone else has to actually answer their radio, but span of control and staying in your lanes is so important for this to be successful in our environment.

Bill Godfrey:

I think that's a great summary. And I'm reminded of course, I think everybody who has been through ICS101 remembers, the recommended span of control is three to seven with optimal allegedly being five. What I've found over the years is that that depends on a couple of things. It depends on how experienced you are as an incident commander. The more you've done it, you can handle more folks. But the downside of that is it also depends on the severity of the incident, the seriousness of the incident and how fast moving it is. Adam, what do you think on that?

Adam Pendley:

Absolutely. I think what also is important and dovetails into span of control is also unity of command. So when you arrive in an incident scene or you are given an assignment, it may be different from your day to reporting structure. And so knowing who you work for and who works for you is very important. And to Mark's point, helps clean up the communication on the scene because rather than people randomly screaming things into the darkness on their radio, they are reporting directly back to who they work for.

So as contact teams are doing their initial size up report, as they move through towards the stimulus of the act of threat and they're calling out injury counts and what they see and how they're engaging, they have somebody to report that to once the tactical group supervisor is in place or once the fifth man concept is engaged. So as the incident continues to grow, each element of the incident has that unity of command, who they're reporting to and I think it cleans up the communication and makes for better situational awareness for everyone.

Bill Godfrey:

And Adam, before we leave that for a topic, because I know unity of command versus unified command is often a confused topic. Can you address that real quickly?

Adam Pendley:

Sure, absolutely. So unity of command is just that you know who you work for and who works for you so that if you imagine visualizing it on an organization chart, so what does my box report to, or where does my lane go? Who does it report to?

Bill Godfrey:

Who's my boss?

Adam Pendley:

Exactly. Unified command is at the top of the structure where you have more than one entity that has jurisdictional authority over an incident or an event. So they're working shoulder to shoulder with equal responsibility to set objectives and to command tactics.

Bill Godfrey:

Fantastic. Thank you for that. So let's take this apart piece by piece. Robert, let's start off with the contact teams and kind of talk about what is the sweet spot of size for a contact team. When does it get too big, their roles, who they're talking to, what's their mission task purpose. Let's talk a little bit about that.

Robert McMahan:

So the contact teams partly depends on how many you got at the time to put together especially early on in the incident. But generally speaking, I think a contact team of about four, maybe five at the most is going to be about the right size. Many times as we start the incident, we've got a one contact team and he starts joining up with the second and third officers as they come in. But if you get them too big, they're going to be stumbling over each other and it creates a lot of confusion. And it puts a lot of people in one space when you might need resources in other areas. So it might be wiser to split those out into a little bit smaller groups, but you don't want to leave them too small that they're unable to support themselves.

The contact teams have got to get inside and number one, take care of that threat and then start working towards getting patients to hospitals. And so their role does not stop when the bad guy or the threat's down. They've got to take up the call to help get injured patients out to the hospital.

Bill Godfrey:

So you're talking about SIMs, Security, Immediate Action Plan, Medical?

Robert McMahan:

Exactly. They've got a huge role in providing security so that the RTF SIMs start moving in. But they can do a lot of things in providing patient care before those RTFs get there. And I think that's a whole another topic, but it's not just threat work. It's not just security work, but it's also providing medical care so people can survive long enough for the RTF to get there and get them out to the hospital.

Bill Godfrey:

Fantastic. Adam, you mentioned it earlier. So let's use that as a transition point, talking about the contact teams reporting to tactical. So let's talk a little bit about that task and purpose of the contact team and what they need to report to tactical. What's the kind of information flow that needs to go. What do they need to tell and what does tactical need to ask?

Adam Pendley:

Sure. I mean, one of the things that's very important is obviously we need enough of a contact team to Robert's, point to address that active threat, but we can't have every resource rush into the scene. So one of the things that's very important is, and again, being kind of to use a NIMS ICS term it's expandable and flexible. So you ensure that you have a contact team or two that's sized appropriately for the situation that's addressing the act of threat. And then right behind that someone, a law enforcement officer, it can be an officer, it could be a supervisor, stays on just the edge of the warm zone, right at the edge of the crisis site to become the tactical group supervisor. Which is the first step toward applying some incident management to what you have going on.

And that tactical group supervisor is going to need to hear the location of where the contact teams are working. What they're seeing and hearing. What additional needs they have. Do they need an additional contact team to secure a casualty collection point, where is the casualty collection point? What are those numbers? And then communicating with dispatch to make sure that the fire rescue side knows where the location of tactical is so ultimately we can move down a triage group supervisor, and a transport group supervisor.

So we get to this point where right at the edge of the crisis site, you have tactical, triage and transport working together to manage everything that's going on on the inside of the crisis site. And those that are working inside the crisis site, the contact teams initially, ultimately the RTS, they are the eyes and ears of tactical, triage and transport. So if you think of it in that way, that that's the reporting relationship, that's the lane that people are staying in and that's the information that you need that ultimately gets reported out.

Bill Godfrey:

So, great summary on tactical. One of the questions that may be in some people's minds is how do you become tactical? And it's kind of a volunteer position? Is it not? I mean, we always teach about the idea of the fifth man, the fifth arriving officer, we don't necessarily mean the literal fifth. Robert, can you talk a little bit about that before we go on to talking about some of the other elements.

Robert McMahan:

Well, it's driven by necessity. But generally we're talking about the fifth man. As you said, it doesn't have to be the fifth man, but somebody has to get there and take that position to start directing and controlling the scene and controlling those resources.

Bill Godfrey:

Somebody has got to stay outside.

Robert McMahan:

Somebody has got to stay outside. That gives people inside somebody to talk to and get orders from. And that is very, very helpful. Part of the topic here is about staying in your lane. There's nothing more frustrating to a line level person who's trying to take on a task or perform a task and especially in a chaotic environment, like an active shooter event where they're getting multiple orders from multiple places. And so this cleans that up to where they can get their orders from one place, they know who they answer to, and they can listen to those orders and those orders only.

Bill Godfrey:

Fantastic. So what's the area the tactical owns? When we look at the overall incident, we've got the downrange part where bad stuff happened, ultimately we end up with these hot zones and warm zones and colds and what does tactical own?

Adam Pendley:

So I think they own essentially everything that would be considered the warm zone and the hot zones, and it is. It's like a bubble. They can move. If you were pursuing stimulus or where the active threat is, the hot zone may shift a little bit, and you may be able to create a warm zone where you can secure a CCP and begin the idea of bringing a rescue in, remembering that your priorities are active threat rescue, and then continuing to clear. But an answer to your question, the tactical group supervisor is responsible for all of that inner perimeter work. Everything that would be considered part of the crisis site, both the hot zone and the warm zone.

Bill Godfrey:

Fantastic. Okay. Now I want to shift us off a tactical a little bit and jump over to staging because in the process of how the checklist lays out, the unfolding events. You've got your first arriving officer, the second, third, fourth would link up, you got your fifth man, you're going to get additional contact teams, you got a tactical in place, you've got that basic command structure in place. Then we need to start getting staging organized. So, Mark, can you talk a little bit about process for the staging function and blending it together with law enforcement, fire EMS, and some of the different ways that can unfold.

Mark Rhame:

Traditionally, fire departments utilize staging. In fact, I don't know a single fire department that doesn't utilize staging in some fashion. It might be an active shooter event or some threat event, or it could be a structure fire. It could be pretty much anything in our response portfolio, if you will, that we utilize staging when we don't want to bring in the assets that we don't need immediately. Maybe we we're going to use them a little later on. Maybe we're just trying to figure out how large this event is and how many assets we need to get onto that scene. Or maybe that incident commander sitting there going, "I'm probably going to dismiss these people, but right now I'm just going to hold them away from the scene."

So from a fire department perspective, we've been doing staging for years and years and years. In fact, the very beginning of my career that was something that we practiced and did. So when you fold this into an active shooter event and we're bringing in law enforcement, and I know from my law enforcement brothers and sisters, this is kind of that, "You want me to do what?" That's that, "No, I come into the scene."

What we try to get across to people, whether they're law enforcement or fire EMS is that staging is not about slowing down. And if you're really get that stuck into your head, and you are the staging manager, you're kind of messing up there. This is about getting organized and getting those crews onto the scene as quick as possible, but in an organized manner that you have accountability. The worst thing that we want to hear from public safety is we have a blue on blue incident. When we look at some of these after action reports, where we get a lot of officers just respond directly into the scene, and there's a lack of organization, especially in the very beginning, it's kind of a mystery to some of us that you don't have a blue on blue. You don't have two officers just accidentally take each other out simply because they just didn't realize the other team was that close.

So staging again is where we're going to get organized and we're waiting for that officer in charge of that group. Whether it's tactics in charge of contact teams. Whether it's triaging in charge of RTF or it's transportation in charge of the ambulances, when they're ready to deploy those units. Again, there would be nothing worse than having us self-inflict wounds on ourselves, because we just didn't get organized. We didn't have accountability. And that person who's in charge of didn't direct them into the scene.

Bill Godfrey:

I think that's a great summary. One of the things that often comes up is, "I don't want to have everybody in just one staging area. I want law enforcement over here. I want fire over here. And I want EMS over here." Adam, you're shaking your head. Let it rip.

Adam Pendley:

Absolutely not. I would say nationwide, we have worked very hard to consistently train a Rescue Task Force concept. It's a mixed ad hoc unit of police or a security element with fire medical. You can't do that if you're not in the same stage area. It is impossible to form up RTFs if we're not sharing the same staging space. But I also wanted to extend off what Mark was saying. Staging is a gear up and go location. It is not a place where you sit down, have a cup of coffee, sign a...

Bill Godfrey:

No. That's rehab folks.

Adam Pendley:

Yeah. Or camp.

Bill Godfrey:

Or a cup of coffee, that's rehab.

Adam Pendley:

Right. Exactly. And also I'm going to share a secret. Law enforcement does a lot more staging than they think they do. All across the country, if we are responding to a violent domestic incident, we will call the other unit, the backup unit and set a location to meet, and then go in together. We do that all the time. If we're going to serve a warrant, we will go to a nearby location, meet up, brief each other quickly, and then go serve the warrant.

So we do a lot of staging that we just don't call it that. And so all that we're talking about, the importance of staging, this is on a larger scale, and we have to trust that our brothers and sisters that have already gone in to deal with the active threat, it's much more important for us to organize the follow on resources. Gear up and go correctly with a strategy than it is to just try to pour guns randomly into the scene.

And the same thing with tactical. Working with my colleagues and doing training, I say, "Look, one more gun inside the building may not do any good when one more gun standing just outside to manage the hundred of guns that are coming could be much more effective." Same thing in staging. Rather than everyone rushing to the scene, we think that more is better and it may not be. It may be that we need you to do some other jobs that are really important to keep the suspect from escaping. To handle corridors. To handle casualty collection points. And again, to form those RTS. That is critically important to actually treating patients. And we can't do that if we're not meeting up in a staging area together.

Mark Rhame:

Yeah. Bill and I would add this to that, that we have a lot of tasks to get done inside there, like getting our patients out. If we don't do that we're doing a disservice to the patients. And it's a whole lot harder to organize that and do that effectively and quickly when all the resources that you need to do, run inside already. Because it creates a giant mess. And you're going to take a whole lot more time getting that done than you would have if the resources would have staged and got their assignment to an RTF or whatever, and then went in with the task and purpose.

Bill Godfrey:

100%. If you're a regular listener to the podcast you know just a few weeks ago, we had a podcast that came out where the entire subject was talking just about staging. And Robert, if I recall right, you shared a personal story about ending up with staging in two different locations. Before we move on from staging, can you kind of share that with the audience, for those that may not have heard this?

Robert McMahan:

Yeah. We had a active shooter event and we ended up with fire staging and they did the appropriate thing, but then we staged separately from them.

Bill Godfrey:

Meaning law enforcement staging a separate enforcement?

Robert McMahan:

Yes. Law enforcement. Yes, law enforcement staged separate from them and we never got that connect together. So what happened was the RTF that were trying to form up on the fireside never got a security element with them. And fortunately, we were able to adapt and overcome that, we got patients out quickly to the hospital and safe people, but that's an example of what can happen if you don't have that in place. And as a consequence, when we saw the RTF standing there ready to go, they wouldn't come with us until they had a security element. They would not deploy, and they're not supposed to. They need that security element to take care of them.

Bill Godfrey:

Okay. So we've got staging set up, we're good to go. On the fire EMS side, medical branch has made it way to the command post. We hope by this point. We've got our leadership, first fire EMS, supervisor, medical branch, hook it up at the command post. One of the first assignments that we've got to do at a staging is to get a triage group supervisor and a transport group supervisor assigned and get them moved up to the same spot tactical is. Mark, talk a little bit about that, and then Robert, I'm going to have you kind of talk about the security piece of where fifth man has picked their spot and how that can play together.

Mark Rhame:

Exactly. The medical branch also when they get to the command post, obviously are going to get their briefing from their counterpart on the law enforcement side, and they're going to get their briefing in route from dispatch. So they're going to have some good intel and a good idea what's going on. But as you said, Bill, their priority number one, that medical branch, is to stand up triage and transport. And that's that engine company or maybe that captain or whatever they've responded and it's at staging. And you're going to call your staging manager and say, "Stand up a triage and a transport group supervisor for me. Hold them in place, until we know that the environment where tactical is, that fifth man is, is safe to bring them up. So we're waiting on that safe environment before we deploy them."

Bill Godfrey:

So Robert, take it from there and kind of talk about some of the implications for where fifth man happens to choose their spot and what that could mean for triage and transport, having to move up to them.

Robert McMahan:

So tactical or the fifth man is going to set up, generally where we call at the edge of the inner perimeter, because he owns everything inside there. And it's got to be an area that's fairly safe. And generally we put that demarcation between the cold zone and warm zone. It may sometimes be just a little bit inside that warm zone but we've got to be cognizant of our own security needs there and the security needs of triage and transport as they join us. But it's also going to be a place where you can get some eyes on what's going on. I think it's a pretty crucial piece for that a tactical officer to have some eyes on what's going on. He's not going to be able to see everything, but he's going to be up close enough to see this thing and have some comfort about what he's doing.

Bill Godfrey:

Perfect. And if tactical is in an area where they don't feel it's safe for triage and transport to move up to them, then one of two things has to happen. Either tactical needs to move back a little bit, or we need to get some law enforcement to escort triage and transport up to tactical. So Mark, pick that up from there. And then let's walk through... let's talk about triage. So triage and transport get side by side by tactical, first thing they're going to get from tactical?

Mark Rhame:

A briefing. We get a briefing from our partners there. The triage and transport is going to get a briefing from the tactical officer and figure out what is that person's mindset? What is a tactical person looking at and what information do they have? Have they already established a casualty collection point so we can safely bring in those RTFs into that environment?

So once that tactical officer says, "Yes. We've secured this. The threat is neutralized. There's no longer a threat in the environment where the patients are, that casualty collection point and law enforcement has secured that environment." That tactical officer will give the green light and say, "It's good now to bring in your RTS." And that's when triage is going to call over to staging and said, "Send me RTF one and RTF two." Or whatever the number of RTF teams that they need to send initially into that environment, that's already been secured by law enforcement.

Transport is just standing by right now. They're listening to all the intel there. They're getting good information about how many patients there are and their criticality. And they're trying to develop their transportation plan because they can start their plan. They just can't deploy anything. How many units do they need? What's the bed count on the hospitals? What's the best routes for them to go into that scene and come out? But they're not ready to send anything in until all of that area secured and the RTFs give the green light along with the contact teams.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah. So the interesting thing is that we started this topic with stay in your lane. But tactical, triage and transport is really an area where we can help each other. So if law enforcement has, let's say that in the mindset of the tactical officer is that, "We're still searching. We're still searching. We're still searching." You know, triage may have to step up and say, "Well, have you secured any areas that we can get in and begin treating some patients?"

And while you stay in your lane, like tactical is focused on the law enforcement security inner perimeter, triage is focused on finding and getting treatment to those most critical patients and transport wants to get them to the hospital. So that's their lane. But we can really help each other if triage is able to maybe get tactical to focus on, "Hey, you're still searching in buildings nine, 10, and 11, what about building one where he started? Can we secure that now as a CCP? Can you help us get in there." And so there's a real partnership there I think that helps.

Robert McMahan:

And it doesn't stop tactical from telling triage, "What is the number count? What do they have right now?" So they can tell staging, "Go and stand up all those RTFs and have them ready, because remember we're leaning forward. We're ready to send those units in. We're not going to build them after you give that intel. We're not waiting for tactical to give the Intel to triage and say, 'Well, this is our number that we got at this location.'" And then triage turns around to staging and goes, "Oh, now let me start building our RTS." Nope. We're leaning forward. We're building them out before they're asked for, and they're ready to go in. That's all about not slowing down the process.

Bill Godfrey:

And that's one of the huge ways we take time off the clock.

Robert McMahan:

Exactly.

Bill Godfrey:

One of the biggest ways we can take time off the clock. Okay. So we've covered contact teams. We've talked about tactical. We've moved on to staging. Let's talk a little bit about the Rescue Task Force. Mark, what does this look like? Of course it starts to get organized and staging, but walk us through that process and if you don't mind also talk about the briefing that needs to happen as well.

Mark Rhame:

Yep. So as we set up our staging, and again, that's a process that we're going to identify, where is that location? Let me back up and say that for fire and EMS, we're probably going to get to a location and stage probably for law enforcement does, but can it can work either way, frankly law enforcement could get there first and set up a staging location. But here's the success in this is if you contact dispatch and tell them where you're at and make sure the other disciplines come to your location.

Let's say for example, fire EMS shows up first, they establish a staging location. They should notify their dispatch where it's at, and have law enforcement come to that location. So we have a joint location. And at that location, you're going to stand up staging managers. And each discipline has to have that staging manager that controls this environment. There, we're going to build out those teams. Obviously, the priorities are going to take precedence. So if contact teams are needed, those law enforcement officers are going to go toward that direction because there's still a threat. And that it has to be neutralized or held in place.

But the RTF's, when we start building those out, we're going to mix those with a discipline of fire EMS people and law enforcement. For our example, we talk about two fire EMS people and two law enforcement officers, just a medical mission that works for triage, but with those law enforcement element in that RTF, they're still communicating with the tactical side. And this is very, very important because if another threat emerges, that RTF with that law enforcement presence has to be able to take shelter somewhere, because obviously we don't want to put our fire EMS people in danger.

So we're going to build those out in staging. And in staging, that's where we determine who's in charge? Who's in charge of this group and it's for our RTF's on the medical side, it's a medical mission there. It's going to be one individual in the fire EMS side that is in charge of that medical mission. And one of the law enforcement officers so we have a good radio discipline environment will be the one that talks to the tactical side. Now we've got some radio discipline. And that's where we introduce each other. We talk about how much equipment we're going to carry in there because remember we got to be lean and mean in the beginning.

And then once RTF's are ready to be deployed, triage who stand there right next to tactical, and tactical will say, "It's a warm environment. The threat is neutralized." Or, "The casual collection point has been secured. You can start sending your RTF's into building nine." That's when they're going to deploy it from staging. That RTF is going to go to that location, knowing full well those fire and EMS people have a law enforcement protection envelope going with them. And that's very important that this team stays together. The wingman don't leave their crew members. We stay together. Again, being a medical mission, that RTF is reporting directly to triage. But again, we're not going to lose the communication link with the tactical side, because again, there's law enforcement officers with this RTF.

And this is how we can safely duplicate some of our process because remember triage, tactics, and transport are standing right next to each other. They're talking to each other. They should have the exact same game plan and know exactly what's occurring no matter what teams are being deployed. But that RTF, being a medical mission is only working for triage and that's the mission to go in there. They're looking for those patients, they're going to start to treat them more aggressively and more advanced. And then they're going to come up with their routes of getting them out of the scene to an ambulance exchange point and get them transport off the scene and where our transport officer is going to take control.

But again, that's where this whole span of control and direction from leaders within those groups are directing their own lanes and not crossing over to the other side. If you set it up this way, it should be successful and you should have a seamless or are less chaotic environment. Having the RTFs report directly to triage makes sense because it's a medical mission.

Bill Godfrey:

Great summary, Adam, before we leave this, can you provide the example of a typical law enforcement briefing? Let's say the four of us are about to be assigned an RTF. We've never met before. Mark and I are the fire EMS side. Robert, you and Adam are the law enforcement side. Can you lead us through that briefing real quick?

Adam Pendley:

Sure. And the first thing I'm going to do is offer an insurance. We are going to be moving here from staging to a known casualty collection point where there are security measures in place. When we move, you stay between the two officers. Make sure you travel light on this first movement of RTF. We're not necessarily going to be able to bring a stretcher this time. Show me what gear you're having, make sure you're able to carry it. We're going to move. We're going to move in a steady, direct way. Stay behind us. If we hear a threat, we are not going to leave you. We will find a place to shelter and we will... if the threat comes toward us, we'll address a threat, but otherwise we will allow the contact teams to address the threat. And we may have to evacuate back to a staging. But there should be no reason for that. We're moving from staging to a known casualty collection point. Do you have any questions?

Mark Rhame:

And Adam, on the fire and EMS side, Bill and I will determine which one of us is going to be in charge. Only one of us will talk on the radio to triage. That way we have some radio discipline, and we're going to convey that to you to make sure you understand that I'm in charge. Bill's going to be working for me and I'll be the one talking on the radio to triage.

Adam Pendley:

Sure. And again, the goal is you know what the medical mission is, you're hearing where the most critical patients are, you know where to go. It's my job to get you there safely.

Mark Rhame:

Exactly.

Bill Godfrey:

I'm so glad you added that last point, because that is such a critical, critical piece for folks to understand. Is the RTF is a medical mission, and the medical folks are in charge, but they don't control the movement. Law enforcement controls the movement. They control the how, they control the when, they control the speed, and they have veto authority to say, "Yeah, we ain't going there. I'm listening to the tactical radio and that's a no-go area for us."

Mark Rhame:

It's kind of a relationship to the fire side when we have a structure fire or any other event where we stand up a safety officer. That safety officer generally, generally, always has veto power over the incident commander. They can say, "Stop. This is not safe. We're not going to progress any farther than this." And of course, you're going to have the discussion with the incident commander. But again, that safety officer has that ability. The same thing with law enforcement on that RTF.

Adam Pendley:

It just popped into my head and it's worth sharing here too though that again, we may be meeting each other for the first time at staging for this particular mission. But again, law enforcement and fire EMS, we work in warm zones together all the time. And we already do this naturally. And what I mean by that again, in our jurisdictions, if we have that drive by shooting and you have two injured in the middle of the road, fire and EMS is going to naturally stage at a nearby location. Law enforcement is going to go in. Put security measures in place, either radio or escort fire EMS to that crime scene. And we're going to together, fire EMS is going to treat the patients and we're going to continue to work the scene. At that point, that is still a warm zone. It has not been converted to a cold zone investigation stage. That is a warm zone where life-saving is still taking place.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, what's the guarantee that the drive-byer isn't going to drive back by?

Adam Pendley:

Absolutely. And we have those security measures in place. And while I understand that many jurisdictions have invested in additional equipment for fire EMS, oddly we don't use that additional equipment in these violent roadside incidents. But because something has been labeled as an active shooter, we tend to get in our own way sometimes and trying to form up these teams, and understand that, "Look, law enforcement is here, security measures in place. We've dealt with the active threat. Let's go. Let's move in." So it's just worth pointing that out.

Bill Godfrey:

So, we've covered the contact team. We've covered tactical. We've covered staging. We've got a medical branch at the command post, triage and transport stood up. And now we've covered Rescue Task Force. Let's talk briefly about perimeter and how that fits. And then I want to transition a little over to the command post. Robert, tell me a little bit about that call from the command post to staging that says, "Give me a perimeter group supervisor," and how that can sometimes differ than the way law enforcement does it day to day normally with a perimeter.

Robert McMahan:

Perimeter group supervisor is going to take that group of officers and formally put them in places along that perimeter and harden it up, so to speak. I think kind of the difference is normally on, let's say you get a domestic where somebody flood the house, incoming units fill those perimeter assignments based on where they're coming from and what they think good locations are. But this is a little more formal process that's a little more designed to contain that bigger incident and provide that security measure that we need in place so that we can clearly identify those warm zones from the cold zones. The perimeter group is not working for tactical. They're working for the law enforcement branch supervisor, and that's an important distinction. Again, keeping in your lanes and so people know who they're answering to, and have that clear mission and clear boss to get orders from.

Bill Godfrey:

Just to clarify and make sure I'm saying this right. So perimeter is working for law enforcement branches at the command post, not working for tactical. So they work in conjunction with each other, but tactical is not responsible in any way for the perimeter.

Robert McMahan:

That's correct.

Adam Pendley:

Right. So just to extend on that, it's a big chunk of the incident command is responsible for, but they can also take it off their plate. They can ask staging to assign a perimeter group supervisor, and based on the number of resources that are available at that time, that person is now responsible for creating a perimeter. Command or the law enforcement branch director that's working in the command post, should not be leaning over a map trying to do X's and O's for a perimeter. That's too much in the weeds. You need to delegate that.

I also heard somebody express it this way one time, which I think is a really good way to understand why it's a command function. You want to create a crisis Island. So you want to create a perimeter that keeps the inner perimeter safe, if you will, for tactical, triage and transport to do their job. So you want to isolate it so it doesn't get interference from anyone coming in from the outside, and it also doesn't get any potential suspects, any potential injured folks that need care from necessarily leaving the crisis site unless they're addressed with the resources that they need.

Bill Godfrey:

Because I hear you guys talk about the inner perimeter and the outer perimeter, so we're actually talking about two different perimeters, all reporting to the perimeter group supervisor.

Adam Pendley:

Yes.

Bill Godfrey:

Is it fair to say that, I'm probably overly generalizing this, that the inner perimeter's main job is to contain and capture anything coming out and the outer perimeters job is, yeah, a secondary catch point. But mainly it's to isolate the incident and keep people from coming in that we don't want in. Is that fair?

Adam Pendley:

Yes. That's the exact way I would describe it.

Robert McMahan:

Yeah. And it helps control the ingress and egress of vehicles, equipment, media, all those kinds of things, even parents that are trying to get to the school and pick up their kid. We want them to go to certain places too. There's a lot of reasons for that control. You can only imagine the number of people that are going to start flocking on that thing once information starts getting out about the incident.

Bill Godfrey:

Okay, fantastic. So we've covered contact teams, tactical, staging, triage, transport, Rescue Task Force, perimeter. Let's jump over to the command post and talk about medical branch, law enforcement branch, and the incident commander. Just in our training today, Adam, you were in the command post as the command post coach. Talk a little bit about those roles and what their lanes are.

Adam Pendley:

Sure, absolutely. So like Mark mentioned earlier, in these types of violent incidents, police, fire and EMS will all be dispatched at the same time. And we know that those initial law enforcement officers are going to race to the scene. And we expect that ranking fire EMS supervisor to understand that they are going to need to take over the medical branch. That is the position they're going to request. And leaning forward, they're hopefully going to find a good location for the command post and ensure that they link up with that first arriving law enforcement supervisor.

So we know that tactical can be the fifth man, and it can be almost any rank. But that first arriving law enforcement supervisor is going-

Bill Godfrey:

After the fifth man.

Adam Pendley:

... after the fifth man, is going to hopefully go to that command post location. And not, hopefully we need to ensure that they go to the command post location and verbally brief with the medical branch and start that shoulder to shoulder communication at the command post. And that first arriving law enforcement supervisor after fifth man, ultimately is the incident commander, gets a briefing from tactical and start speaking to medical branch about resource needs, about the direction the incident is going, the location for these things. And then they start listening for benchmarks. And it's key to understand that command is not going to go down range and take over from anyone that's doing a job down range. That takes up too much time. And it takes people that have situational awareness out of the game. You're going to add a layer.

Keep tactical, triage and transport doing what they're doing, ensure that they have what they need and that it's getting done. So you're checking off that that benchmark is happening and then-

Bill Godfrey:

They're closer to the problem. So they're in a better position with better information to make those decisions about that downrange piece?

Adam Pendley:

...Absolutely. Right. So you're going to waste time and you're going to lose situational awareness if you go too far and you try to take over the work that's already happening. Because you also have to keep in mind at the command post, that a lot more stuff is coming. A lot more tasks have to be done. A lot more outward things need to be considered.

And one of the ways I like to phrase it is, tactical, triage and transport is working on what's happening now. The command post should be working on what's happening next. So that first law enforcement supervisor gets their briefing. They become the incident commander. And then as in most organizations, there is going to be another higher ranking law enforcement supervisor who's going to arrive. They may be on call. They may be in the office, but somebody else is coming. And that second law enforcement supervisor will ultimately come to the command post as well. Get a face-to-face briefing and we'll assume command.

But here's the key. Again, you're not replacing that first law enforcement supervisor. That first law enforcement supervisor now becomes the law enforcement branch. You have a law enforcement branch, a medical branch, and now you have an incident commander who now has a team working for him or her. And that incident commander is able to remain the thinker, if you will. The one who has to make decisions in the command post and medical branch will continue to answer for medical, continue talking to triage and transport, those entities that are working for medical branch.

Law enforcement branch will continue to communicate with the perimeter group and continue to communicate with tactical. And the incident commander, hopefully, is just making decisions with the team and not trying to get into the weeds. Because, now that incident commander is looking forward to additional things like assigning a PIO, getting intelligence section started, dealing with elected officials worrying about all the other stuff that's about to come down on the command post. So, if you build this command post right, you have an incident commander who's able to keep their head up out of the mud, make good decisions while having a team that is actually managing the incident.

Bill Godfrey:

I think that's a fantastic synopsis. Mark, we've got everything built out, command structures in place. Now the police chief, the fire chief, the sheriff show up, they want to establish a unified command. It's a good move. How does that work? What does that look like? Who changes positions?

Mark Rhame:

Like all these positions, we're going to get a briefing. So those leaders are going to get to the command post. They're going to get a briefing from the people who are already been there and established. And then they're going to create that unified command environment. But they're going to point that person who was the incident commander to the operational section chief, and allow them to continue to run the scene while the unified command now talks about or looks at planning issues and down the road issues commanding the entire environment, but allowing those people who are already there to continue their jobs. They're not going to go away. They're going to maintain their positions. A title may change from incident commander to operational section chief, but their job and their role is exactly.

Bill Godfrey:

And they continue to work through medical branch, law enforcement, branch, and nothing down range changes or is affected.

Mark Rhame:

Exactly.

Bill Godfrey:

This is a change just within the command post.

Mark Rhame:

Exactly.

Adam Pendley:

Absolutely. Usually, when I'm in the command post, I even encourage that same person to talk on the radio. So when someone down range is calling command, it can still be the operation section chief or the law enforcement branch that's answering for the command post because they're working together. The worst thing that you see happen in a command post environment is that you have those high ranking chiefs and directors that are trying to talk on the radio. When I coach the command post, I usually even try to take their radio away from them. They cannot concentrate on the constant radio chatter and still try to think about those issues that are coming towards them from down the road. They have to be able to think about those issues and let the team continue to manage the incident. That's the only way to cut down the chaos in the command post.

Bill Godfrey:

Okay. So to recap us. We got the contact teams. We've got tactical stood up, staging, triage, and transport are in place. We get our Rescue Task Forces, they're moving down range. We've got a law enforcement branch, a medical branch working at the command post. They're talking to the operations section chief, if we've moved a unified command, otherwise they're just talking to the incident commander, and then we've got unified command.

The one piece that we have not talked about, which is where it starts and is arguably the most important part of this is dispatch. And Robert, I know this is a passion for you. So tell us a little bit about that key role of dispatch at the beginning of the incident and then how they can save us from the things that we always forget.

Robert McMahan:

Yeah. I always include dispatch in our trainings, whatever we're doing. Whether it's active shooter or just moving, running and gun as law enforcement calls it. But dispatch can save us a lot of times if they're aware of the functions and things that need set up. And if they don't see it, ask for it. My favorite example of that is, tactical is supposed to set the staging area. And I tell my dispatchers, "If you haven't heard where that staging area is supposed to be set right away by tactical, ask them. 'Where would you like to set the staging area? Where would you like to set the incident command post?'" They can help us lean forward and get some of these things done right away.

Adam Pendley:

So as dispatchers, I'm sorry, in day-to-day work, they answer everything. So as law enforcement arrives, even as fire EMS arrives, there's a lot of communication back and forth with dispatch. Once we get the structure in place and we have the lanes built and people are communicating to tactical, and to command, and to medical branch, dispatch doesn't have the traditional role anymore. They're still copying. They're going to be documenting a lot in CAD, but the actual communication and decision-making is going to be happening at the structure that we've put in place at the scene.

But here's the trick. There are still going to be new information coming in. Like there's still delayed calls. There's reports of suspicious people. There's reports of possible suspects-

Bill Godfrey:

Flood of 911

Adam Pendley:

...a flood of 911 calls that will continue for hours. People looking for family members and all those sorts of things. Those types of calls are now directed to command. And here's the good part for dispatch. Day-to-day they have to remember who's in charge of a certain part of the incident based on their call number and the things that we do day-to-day. Once we set the structure in place, "Dispatch to command, I'm getting a report of this. Dispatch to command, We need a call on this."

Mark Rhame:

And Robert, you hit the nail on the head in regard to dispatch being involved in training. We've been to so many sites where dispatchers are so excluded from training, and policy meetings, and talk about tactics and stuff like that, that they have no clue what's going on. And frankly, they're blind to what we're trying to accomplish. But then you see those dispatchers who were involved in training from day one. They go out there and they do ride a longs. Maybe they sit down with the incident commanders every once in a while and talk about what they're trying to achieve, what their goals are. And you see that they are so far ahead of the curve when we talk about having dispatchers making sure that we are getting the job done. Maybe they have their electronic checklist in front of them, or they're checking them off and reminding the scenes that, "You didn't get that done." Or, "Where's that location at?" Which is probably more politically correct on the radio, that, "You didn't get it done," because obviously that doesn't sound good.

But the bottom line is that the dispatchers save us. I mean, they save us a lot. And here's the amazing thing. Even as an incident commander, I don't know how many times I'd have the dispatcher supervisor call me up when things sort of settled down and sort of give me a briefing of what I missed. Because they knew I missed something. Because I didn't reply, "This happened and did you catch that?" Because our dispatchers save us all the time, but you got to include them in the very beginning when we start talking about training.

Bill Godfrey:

I think that that is spot on. Just today we were doing a training class and the area that we were training was largely a rural area. Now it was mixed. There was a bunch of jurisdictions, but largely rural. And our dispatchers were all from a fairly small dispatch center that only has two people on. And they're going to get inundated and overloaded. I thought the most interesting question that came up was, we know a lot of times we've got our main channel, that's on a trunk or a repeater or something along those lines, but they've got these fireground channels or the law enforcement has these tactical channels, these talk around channels, local channels that they go to. And I said, "Well, do you guys monitor those?" "No." "Do you have the ability to monitor them?" "No." "Okay. So what's the plan on an active shooter? Is everybody going to stay on main or are you guys going to switch to these tactical channels and they're going to reach back to you?"

And the three dispatchers said, "We have no idea. We don't really know what would happen." And then we brought that up in the debrief and you've got two chiefs of police and the sheriff from the area that we're in there and said, "That's a gap, and we need to have a conversation about that and have a plan that's going to work for our community within the limits of what their radio system would do." It is amazing. It is amazing, amazing, amazing what you can accomplish to further your mission by including everybody in training across the disciplines.

Robert, Adam, Mark, thank you so much for being here today. I know we ran a little bit long folks. Sorry about that. Our normal target is about 30 minutes, but we hope you enjoyed the podcast. If you haven't subscribed, please click the subscribe button. If you've got some questions or suggestions, please send us whatever questions, suggestions you have, info@c3pathways.com. On behalf of the instructors, thank you for taking the time and until next time, stay safe.

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