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