By Lesley Maceyak, Fort Lee Public Affairs

FORT LEE, Va. – More than 75 local law enforcement and fire and emergency services personnel attended the Joint Public Safety Response to Active Shooter Events conference here July 13.

The keynote speaker was Michael Clumpner, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Threat Suppression Inc., Charlotte, N.C. He opened the event by speaking about his experience while serving in the emergency medical and law enforcement career fields.

He spent 22 years as a paramedic, and then spent another 10 years as a flight paramedic. Now, he is a police officer who serves as a tactical field officer or support officer with a SWAT team. He does about 235 SWAT deployments annually.

During his remarks, he said he received his doctorate in homeland security policy and did his dissertation on integrated police fire and active shooters events. Clumpner said, “his doctoral dissertation is the only published paper on active shooters.” Since then, he has spent about 6,000 hours studying perpetrators.

Throughout the daylong conference, Clumpner reviewed the background of different active shooters and discussed the after action reports in detail.

Additionally, Clumpner discussed how to handle an active shooter response. Part of his focus was on the implementation of fire and EMS personnel into a law enforcement response plan, including laying out the priorities during an integrated response.

Clumpner said he hopes the conference will help others take away the importance of understanding integrated cooperation between police, fire and EMS on local, state and federal levels.

Christopher Steckel, assistant chief, Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services Training Division, coordinated the event and he invited personnel from the surrounding communities. The goal was to improve recognition of potential active shooter events and response.

“Historically, we have been on the sideline waiting for the shooting to stop and then go in to clean up the pieces,” said Steckel. “We can’t do that anymore. Previously, there was the mindset fire and EMS should wait outside while the police engaged the shooter and cleared the facility. This was one of the problems that plagued Columbine High School in Colorado and other mass-shooting incidents. It took up to an hour or more to clear the buildings and remove the victims from the shooting incident. In the meantime, victims were bleeding out waiting for EMS assistance.”

Fire and emergency medical service personnel need to team up with local law enforcement to develop rescue task forces, said Steckel, to allow entry into the building as soon as possible to remove victims and improve their chances of survival. This method is called the “Warm Zone Extraction,” and is done before the building is considered safe.

“This team would go in if the shooter’s location is confirmed to be away from the victims or if the shooter is dead, but before the building is completely cleared,” he said. “EMS enters and is protected by the police while they rapidly extract the injured and take them to a casualty collection point, where they are triaged. We have been practicing this here for over a year, but we are having some issues with buy-in from folks who are used to doing it the old way. While it does increase the risk to responders, it also vastly improves the chances of a shooting victim surviving.”

Donnie Hunter, Hopewell’s fire chief, has worked for the city for 23 years and said he found the active shooter conference one of the best classes he has attended.

“The instructor was extremely passionate about his work,” said Hunter. “The research he did was second to none. He taught me things on shootings I have never heard of because he did a fantastic job doing his research.”

He said he learned a lot he would be able to carry to his crew.

“We are implementing an active shooting protocol,” said Hunter. “With all the events happening in the world, this has become a high priority with us. For example, we are already ordering ballistic vests for our EMS and fire. It was nice to talk with an expert on what to look for in our equipment.

“If the PD is at the scene, we also will need protection,” he continued. “This is very new to us. Firemen are not hip on wearing a vest as it was always a police department function. This is a new learning curve for all of us.”