Planning Past the Response: Three Important Recommendations for Active Threat Recovery Planning
Editorial Note: An active threat event is defined as the act or attempt of rapid mass murder in a confined and populated area.
As the recent events in Las Vegas, Nevada; New York City, New York; and Sutherland Springs, Texas, have shown, neutralizing an active threat event is only the beginning of a long, arduous recovery process. While strides have been made to educate the public on behavioral indicators and how to protect and mitigate against these incidents, many times there is little to no warning of when an incident will occur. Because these are unexpected, heinous acts, the physical, psychological, and economic impacts are all the more detrimental and potentially crippling to the responders, the victims and witnesses, and the community as a whole.
To fully recover from an active threat event multiple topics need to be planned for, including reuniting families with their loved ones, providing ongoing mental and behavioral support services, setting up and managing donations, addressing environmental impacts, identifying and managing cost recovery options, and supporting the revitalization of the economy.
To achieve these aspects of the recovery process, pre-incident planning should incorporate:
- Lessons learned and best practices derived from previous incidents;
- Leverage partnerships with recovery agencies and organizations including local, state, and federal stakeholders, as well as the public and private sectors;
- Evaluate information sharing systems and perform a gap analysis of those systems; and
- Include an improvement plan for gaps on agencies and organizations to be involved, policies and procedures in place, and resources and systems to be used.
During planning, Hagerty recommends the following:
- Research Best Practices and Lessons Learned. As active threat events occur more frequently, lessons learned and best practices have been established for preparing for, mitigating against, responding to, and recovering from such an incident. For example, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the National Center for Victims of Crime developed the National Compassion Fund to serve as a centralized fund for donations to victims of an incident. The National Compassion Fund was also used following the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting and the Orlando, Florida, Pulse nightclub shooting. The National Compassion Fund has made strides to enhance donations management following these incidents and has greatly decreased the likelihood of donation scams for both donors and the victims receiving the funds. As agencies plan for the recovery following these incidents, they should reach out to agencies and organizations that can support recovery to establish a working relationship, gain an understanding of support offerings, and as needed, create a memorandum of understanding.
- Incorporate Recovery Agencies and Organizations in Planning. As we have seen around the country, recovering from an active threat event requires multiple local, state, and federal agencies, as well as public and private sector organizations to work together. So too should the process of planning for recovery to an active threat. A lack of inclusiveness in the planning process can lead to assumptions that delay or disrupt the recovery process for victims, witnesses, family members, responders, and agencies and organizations involved. Inclusivity in the planning process can prevent common misconceptions of the integration of various agencies and organizations into the recovery process. From the American Red Cross serving as the primary agency for reunification and family assistance to the FBI taking over in an incident, misconceptions about integration, if not validated, can lead to confusion and delay of recovery activities during a real-world event. To build upon the first recommendation, think about using a Whole Community approach to ensure all relevant agencies and organizations are present for active threat recovery planning and allow—and encourage—each of them to speak to their roles, responsibilities, and resources. This will allow these stakeholders to self-identify gaps and misconceptions, putting the most knowledgeable people about those organizations—the leaders or members themselves—in the driver’s seat to check those assumptions. Only through the incorporation of all relevant agencies and organizations does a full picture of recovery operations become clear.
- Identify Systems for Tracking and Information Sharing. A common thread across after-action reports, whether for exercises or real-world events, is difficulty sharing information. Recovery requires the mobilization of significant resources and information throughout the recovery process. The ability to track and share information, such as victim, witness, and responder information, across all supporting agencies and organizations is essential to ensuring smooth, collaborative recovery operations that support all impacted individuals. For example, sharing information between hospitals, non-governmental organizations, and law enforcement to aid in family reunification and victim or witness tracking is frequently identified as a challenge. Patient privacy rules and regulations, such as HIPPA, restrict the flow of certain information. However, by involving parties, such as risk management and confidentiality compliance advocates in the planning process, jurisdictions can identify the waivers and agreements that need to be established ahead of time in order to increase the dexterity of response operations during incidents such as an active threat event.
Recovering from an active threat requires the resources and dedication of countless agencies and organizations for months and even years post-incident, regardless of the extent or dedication to pre-incident planning efforts. The actions agencies, organizations, and community take now, in the present, can lead to a more prepared, coordinated, and meaningful active threat recovery in the future.
For more information on how Hagerty Consulting can support your active threat preparedness efforts, please visit http://hagertyconsulting.com/preparedness/.
Amanda Wight, Deputy Lead for Hagerty’s Active Threat Portfolio and Lead for West Coast Preparedness, supports communities in active threat preparedness planning, training, and exercises. Amanda and the Hagerty active threat team have been leading the development of CCTA-related preparedness programs for urban areas and their regional partners across the country. For more information about how Hagerty can help your organization, visit our active threat event preparedness page here.