Right now with every training company getting on board to teach the first responder what they need! I would like to offer a note of CAUTION. True, there are many courses now available to assist the first responder deal with a situation involving an active shooter, but wait, what are these courses actually teaching you? If you take a look at the course content you will probably notice that the tactics are the same old SWAT tactics that have been around for years. The training advocates the T shape,Y shape, L shape; extended line, diamond formation – whatever you call your SWAT tactics. Are these the tactics a first responder really needs? These tactics require at least 3 persons to be effective, preferably more.Don’t get me wrong . . . . . I am a Tactical Officer through and through and SWAT techniques have their place, but I recognize when a tactic is NOT suitable for a certain situation.First responders will arrive (may already be there) in ones or two’s (if they are lucky) the above tactics are no use to them. They need an individual tactic, which helps to reduce the risks involved in hunting down an armed offender.I had the privilege of attending a recent training day held by an FBI SWAT department. Having been trained (FBI) by Israeli forces in active shooter tactics they decided to open their doors and show first responders what they had learned.While there is NO panacea (tactically) out there, the techniques practiced during this class were of benefit to first responders as they are individual tactics designed to help reduce the risks involved.The technique is no more difficult than 45º and 90º angles when approaching an opening or doorway. As you approach a danger area you ’Slice the Pie’ but only till you can see 45º of the roomFig 1 – then you adjust your position again till you can see 90º of the room Fig 2 – finally you adjust till you can see a further 45º into the room Fig 3 effectively clearing a 180º arc. You have the corners to clear next. Fig 4. A quick peek left and right then pause Fig 5. following a brief pause decide which direction holds the higher threat and enter the room moving in that direction.

Fig 6. alternatively the first person performs the same technique as above and the second person follows close behind.

No.1 decides on the higher threat direction and enters with No.2 entering very close behind and moving in the OPPOSITE direction to No. 1 to cover their rear.

During this training however, and demonstrated on a number of occasions (around 50%), a blue on blue situation would arise due to many first responders being in plain clothes and NOT identified. Sure they had their ID badges displayed but more than not they were positioned on the front of the officer. It became apparent that further support is likely to approach from behind you and will NOT see your ID. At this time if you appear to be a threat to others your colleagues may shoot.

After discussion several suggestions were made to address this ID issue . . . . . perhaps individuals could wear their ID towards their rear allowing others to see the ID on your back! A more likely suggestion was the wearing of a ‘marker’, which, even when off duty, was recognized by other officers as belonging to a law enforcement officer responding to a life-threatening situation.

In the UK we have a chequered band (black and white like the racing flag), which denotes an armed officer whether they are in uniform or plain clothes. The chequered band appears around a black / navy blue baseball cap worn by the officer. We also have access to an armband with the chequered pattern, which can be worn in an emergency.

This mark of identification is recognized across the United Kingdom as a law enforcement officer who is carrying a firearm. Perhaps an easily recognized symbol or marker should be considered either locally (your County or State) or nationally so that off duty, plain clothes and uniformed responders, to an active shooter, can be identified easier.

In summary – there are too many courses out there supposedly teaching first responders how to manage an active shooter situation, (and boy do they charge you for the privilege) but they teach the same old SWAT tactics which are not relevant in the first responder situation. After all, every active shooter scenario which has been played out over recent years has been over within 20 minutes . . . long before SWAT would get anywhere near the scene.

Identification is a huge issue when attending an active shooter . . . . . do something about it before the incident occurs and develop an understanding with local and state departments to identify a‘marker’ that you all recognize as ‘friendly’.

Do your research and make sure that the course/class is exactly what you need as a first responder. Better still, if you have attended a course recently and have good or bad things to say about it . . . voice your thoughts and let everyone know where the best classes are and which ones to avoid!

Written and submitted by  Keith Suddes

CertEd, MBA – Tactical Officer, UK : 1992 – 2007. Director of Training, Institute of Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Education – iLEESE http://www.ileese.org