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Active Shooter Situations: After an Active Shooter Incident25
Once the scene is secured, first responders will work with school officials and victims on a variety of matters. This will include transporting the injured, interviewing witnesses, and initiating the investigation.
The school EOP should identify trained personnel who will provide assistance to victims and their families. This should include establishing an incident response team (including local first responders and other community partners) that is trained to appropriately assess and triage an active shooter situation (as well as other emergencies), and provide emergency intervention services and victim assistance beginning immediately after the incident and throughout the recovery efforts. This team will integrate with state and federal resources when an emergency occurs.
Within an ongoing and/or evolving emergency, where the immediate reunification of loved ones is not possible, providing family members with timely, accurate, and relevant information is paramount. Having family members wait for long periods of time for information about their loved ones not only adds to their stress and frustration but can also escalate the emotions of the entire group. When families are reunited, it is critical that there be child release processes in place to ensure that no child is released to an unauthorized person, even if that person is well-meaning.
Essential steps to help establish trust and provide family members with a sense of control are
- Identifying a safe location separate from distractions and/or media and the general public, but close enough to allow family members to feel connected in proximity to their children and their loved ones;
- Scheduling periodic updates even if no additional information is available;
- Being prepared to speak with family members about what to expect when reunified with their child and their loved ones; and
- Ensuring effective communication with those who have language barriers or need other accommodations, such as sign language interpreters for deaf family members.
When reunification is not possible because a child is missing, injured, or killed, how and when this information is provided to families is critical. Before an emergency, the planning team must determine how, when, and by whom loved ones will be informed if their child or loved one is missing or has been injured or killed. Law enforcement typically takes the lead on death notifications, but all parties must understand their roles and responsibilities. This will ensure that parents and loved ones receive accurate and timely information in a compassionate way.
While law enforcement and medical examiner procedures must be followed, families should receive accurate information as soon as possible. Having trained personnel on hand or immediately available to talk to loved ones about death and injury can ensure the notification is provided to family members with clarity and compassion. Counselors should be on hand to immediately assist family members.
The school EOP should include pre-identified points of contact (e.g., counselors, police officers) to work with and support family members. These points of contact should be connected to families as early in the process as possible, including while children are still missing but before any victims have been positively identified. After an incident, it is critical to confirm that each family is getting the support it needs, including over the long-term.
The school EOP should consider printed and age-appropriate resources to help families recognize and seek help with regard to a variety of reactions that they or their loved ones can experience during and after an emergency. Often, a family that has lost a child may have another child or other children in the school. It is critical that these families and loved ones be supported as they both grieve their loss and support their surviving child(ren).
The school EOP also should explicitly address how impacted families and children will be supported if they prefer not to engage with the media. This includes strategies for keeping the media separate from families and students while the emergency is ongoing and support for families that may experience unwanted media attention at their homes.
25Also see the “Functional Annexes Content” and “Recovery Annex” sections.