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Role of 9-1-1 Dispatcher Emphasized in Active Shooter Incidents Following Sandy Hook Investigation

Date: 2013-04-08
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Via PowerPhone

Documents from the investigation into Adam Lanza - who in December 2012 shot and killed 27 people at a Newtown, Conn., school before turning his weapon on himself - reveal that the violence he unleashed lasted just five minutes from the time he entered the school building.

The incident, along with other similar apparently random acts of violence, has sparked a national debate over ways to curb gun violence. Besides enforcing any legislative changes that may arise, public safety agencies have a duty to ensure they are able to respond effectively to these events. Commonly referred to as active shooter incidents, they are characterized as fast-moving, violent and possess a potential risk for a significant number of casualties.

Figures released by the Department of Homeland Security indicate that the average active shooter incident lasts 12.5 minutes, while the average law enforcement response time is 18 minutes. Unless law enforcement is present precisely at the time of attack, there will always be a delay between the initiation of violence and their arrival on scene.

This means that very often, the 9-1-1 dispatcher will be the first law enforcement representative to establish contact with victims or those closely involved with these dramatic events. Until responders arrive, the person predominantly in control is the shooter. In the time separating the first and last shots fired, those who have the greatest capacity to react and take back that control are the victims and potential victims.

Most people confronted with the horror of this type of incident will turn to 9-1-1 for help. Dispatchers are used to handling situations like this as a matter of routine, which to the majority of us are once-in-a-lifetime events. They are able to prioritize the level of response, while calming, reassuring and offering advice to protect or support those involved.

However, the random nature, speed and threat of mass casualties that active shooting incidents present, places greater significance on their role as public protectors. A change in society’s attitude toward gun ownership or the introduction of gun control legislation could take years. The next active shooter tragedy could happen tomorrow.


In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, training provider PowerPhone has decided to make its procedure for Active Shooter incidents freely available and has delivered free educational webinars that can be downloaded from its website.  Company Vice President Jerry Turk said, “The role of the dispatcher often gets overlooked because responders are more visible to the public, but in active shooter situations, the dispatcher can have a greater impact on protecting and saving life.”

He went on to say, “Our training is based upon the principle of empowering the dispatcher to utilize their skills and experience in a structured manner. In active shooter emergencies, the advice they offer complements the recommended guidance of the Department of Homeland Security – namely Evacuate, Hide or Take Action. Compared to the time and effort needed to equip and train an armed response team, a well-trained dispatcher is an economic and effective public safety resource.”

For more information, see www.powerphone.com

- Corporate News/9-1-1magazine.com (via PowerPhone, 4/2/13)

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