Ep 43: Comm Center Challenges Part 1

31:13
 
اشتراک گذاری
 

Manage episode 300617171 series 2385308
توسط C3 Pathways توسط Player FM و جامعه ما پیدا شده است - کپی رایت توسط ناشر، و نه متعلق به Player FM، و صدا به طور مستقیم از سرور های آنها پخش می شود.برای پیگیری به روز رسانی در Player FM دکمه اشتراک را بزنید، و یا فید URL را به دیگر برنامه های پادکست بچسبانید.

Episode 43: 911 Communication Center Challenges in Active Shooter Events (Part 1)

In Part 1 of this week's podcast, we talk about some of the challenges in the 911 dispatch center during an active shooter event. A few topics we cover are the best sense of location, radio traffic, and recognizing when the active shooter event happens.

Bill Godfrey:

Welcome to the Active Shooter Incident Management Podcast. My name is Bill Godfrey, your host of the podcast. Thank you for being with us today. We are going to be talking today about what it's like in the 911 dispatch center during an active shooter event and some of the challenges that go with that. Thank you for joining us. I got three of the C3 Pathways instructors with me today. Ken Lamb from law enforcement. Ken, thanks for being here.

Ken Lamb:

Yes, sir. Happy to be here.

Bill Godfrey:

All right, we got Tom Billington back in the house. Tom, it's been a minute since you were in. Good to have you back.

Tom Billington:

Good to be here, Bill.

Bill Godfrey:

All right, and Leeanna Mims, also from... Like Tom, I didn't mention. Tom from the fire service. Leeanna Mims is also from fire service. Leeanna, good to have you back.

Leeanna Mims:

Thank you. Glad to be here.

Bill Godfrey:

All right, so today's topic, we're going to be talking about some of the challenges that occur in the Comm Center in 911 and dispatch areas during an active shooter event. And I think probably ought to just start right off the bat with what some of the challenges are and recognizing that the 911 calls coming in are actually an active shooter event recognizing the event. Tom, you want to lead us off? What are your thoughts on that?

Tom Billington:

Well, a little background. I started out as a dispatcher in 1979 and dispatching was a paper map and a rotary phone and one microphone. So it has progressed over the years to be such an important position. I like to call the, I'm one operators, the true first responders because in an active shooter event or any other event, they're going to be overloaded immediately. They're going to have victims or survivors calling them. They're going to have bad people calling them. They're going to have texting. So it's a whole new realm that we have to deal with now. And then the active shooter incident adds a whole nother layer of issues that are going to be faced by the 911 center.

Bill Godfrey:

So Ken, when it comes to that first couple of 911 calls coming in, what are some of the things that jump out in your mind just from your experience in the law enforcement side and a couple that you've dealt with that might be the tip offs that the dispatchers are looking for or listening for I guess, I should say?

Ken Lamb:

Right, well, first and foremost is the shootings still occurring and how many individuals have been impacted because that's going to necessitate not only how large the response we have, but also where we're responding, the exact location. And what the shooter is wearing, what they look like, that information is so critical. And the common understanding that there's going to be multiple colors and the deconflict some of that information so that you understand as best as you can how many shooters are involved because oftentimes, four or five people may be calling in the same person. And if you're requesting information such as what are they wearing, what do they look like, then you can oftentimes deconflict some of that information so you understand how many shooters there actually are because that's going to be very important to the responding officers.

Bill Godfrey:

Sure, Leeanna, from the medical side, what are the things that you think are real the important things to get in those first few moments, those first few calls?

Leeanna Mims:

Yeah, so we, just following up on what Ken said, we need to know how many people have been injured if they can gather that in the front end. We need to be thinking about letting our hospitals know that it's occurring, that we're probably going to be giving them a surge of patients. So and that there's something else that dispatch has to consider obviously a little bit further down into the incident. And when we talk about all of the information that is coming into them, making sure that dispatchers are relaying what's needed for the safety of all the first responders that are going into that law enforcement, fire, medical because they're taking in a lot of information that has to be sorted and put out to those unit center responding in.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, I think all of that make sense. It would seem to me some of the most critical things to get right off the bat is the best sense of the location, especially if you've got multiple callers that are calling in with what may seem like different information, how many locations are involved or what was location trying to narrow down where the injured are, where the suspect was last seen or last known or where the shooting is going on, which often, Ken, can sound more than one incident. You got different callers calling in, but it's just a person moving around. And that sense of the numbers, how many people have been shot. And I like what you said about how many shooters, what are the suspect descriptions and things like that. Anything else, before we leave this one, anything else that is the kind of tip-offs that low-hanging front that dispatch may want to watch out for?

Ken Lamb:

Absolutely, so when you mentioned location, I thought that was an excellent point. And I think that point that is commonly overlooked because we just think, oh, location. Yeah, that's simple. We should be able to explain to other people an exact location, but anyone that share directions with their spouse on the phone can understand describing a location can be very challenging. So-

Bill Godfrey:

That's why they invented Google Maps to save marriages.

Ken Lamb:

.... Absolutely, so what I like to encourage folks to use is a common location language and that can be a number of things. You could get really technical and use US National Grid coordinates or dare I say, GPS coordinates even harder. But I like to simplify things and just say points of interest. So if you're trying to get a point of interest from the individual, the call taker and they can look around and say, well, there's a bell tower here or we're in parking lot next to a street lamp or we're next to a concession stand, anything that could specifically identify to streamline that approach for officers. And it would also assist in identifying the hot and the warm zones, but it will be a more specific common location language so that we can really get the resources to that area as quick as possible.

Leeanna Mims:

And Ken, you're exactly right about getting there as quickly as possible. And it's also about the responding units be able to determine the route that they go in. So the sooner that they can have that information in advance, it gives them what they need to help them figure out the best way to gain access depending on where the shooter is and whether or not there's multiple locations or are they moving, that tells to both law enforcement and other responders and in which way to go.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, and I would kind of piggyback on both of those and Ken, I really like... You made my eyes gloss over US National Grid. But the points of interest I think is a really good one because people immediately assume north, south, east, west, I'm in the Northeast corner of this and that actually turns out in practice to be a terrible way to describe locations. The directional indicators are just not reliable. Most people very easily get turned around. They get confused. Either don't know the area that well or they're confused about where they are. They get mixed up. It's just not a good reliable indicator.

But what you're saying, points of interest, I think are really good way to do it. And Leeanna, you talked about the route of coming in. I think also the streets, especially in a larger building. I'm in the back of the building by fifth court. I'm near the alley in the rear or I'm on side street over here to give a description on what side of the building they're on or things like that. And so I think that would be one of the things I would encourage dispatchers to think about is to try to avoid, when you're trying to get those locations bend down, don't waste your time with directionals because they're not reliable from the callers or quite frankly, even with law enforcement, fire EMS in the field.

Tom Billington:

I mean, Ken, do you imagine responding to a shooting in a parking lot at Disney and saying, "I'm in the parking lot at Walt Disney World?"

Ken Lamb:

Right, super helpful, yeah.

Tom Billington:

I mean, there's a reason why they label the parking lots, Goofy, Mickey, Minnie and that's because it's easier to identify exactly which part of the parking lot is.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, absolutely. All right, so let's move on to the next topic. So Tom kind of mentioned this when he made his opening comment there about the overload and the overload is inevitable. I don't think it really matters how big your Comm Center is or how small it is. You only got enough staff for the typical load of calls that you've got. There's nobody wasting money putting extra dispatchers on just in case and we all know that. Most Comm Centers are barely staffed adequately as it is. Some of them are chronically understaffed. And so an event like this is going to come up and be a real kick in the teeth on overload. So let's talk a little bit about that. Tom, talk about the volume of 911 calls, especially today in the light of cell phones and how that can impact their ability to process the call and get it out.

Tom Billington:

Well, it should be able to... Yeah, we're finding out today with cell phones and texting that many large 911 systems overload and get shut down or break down. It's not uncommon to get thousands of calls. So like you said, even if it's a big agency or a smaller agency, there needs to be procedures in place. I know there's some smaller agencies that have procedures in place where they have a message that they give out when they answer 911. If you're calling reference the shooting on West Street, we already have units in route, things like that. How do I explain giving the 911 call or off the phone? And again, the larger jurisdictions, they have a lot more people, but usually that means there's a lot more population calling 911 and they can be overloaded immediately. So like you said, it doesn't matter on the size, but you need procedures in place ahead of time and you need to practice those.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, and you also mentioned one that hasn't come up recently that I can remember over the one things we've talked about and that is if your 911 trunk, I mean, let's face it, it's the phone company providing that service. There's only a limited capacity, whether it's a small center, a medium center or a large center, the 911 trunk coming into service, that center has a limited capacity for so many simultaneous calls. And if it gets overloaded or it fails, it's going to go to whatever the setup fail-over program is. And I wonder how many dispatchers actually know who gets their failure recalls? Leeanna, do you remember, was that part of the dispatcher training when you were on the job?

Leeanna Mims:

It absolutely was. They had to know and have procedures in place for what to do if we went into just various sorts of failure. I mean, there's different ways that a system can fail. And with that, echoing what Tom had said about having the procedures in place, it's critical not only for the failure, but also for success to make sure that you're able to sort those calls that are coming in to find the information in there that's meaningful because you can't just disregard all of those calls that are coming in. We've got to find a way to be able to screen it because some of that stuff that's coming in might make the difference in saving an officer's life on where they're going in.

Bill Godfrey:

Sure. Yeah, absolutely, it could. Ken, what about you, your job? Because you actually work at a place that's got a pretty large Comm Center, do those dispatchers have a good handle of where those calls dumped to if their trunk gets overloaded?

Ken Lamb:

They do. We have unit procedures and policies in place as a contingency in the event that that were to occur. And I would also stress the importance of having that contingency for the radio traffic. I mean, we had the incident in Fort Lauderdale where their radio traffic was overwhelmed and there were officers that weren't able to get on the radio because so many agencies in the area tuned in to listen to that incident. And to have a contingency in place so that if that happens because we know it has so that you can change to a different channel so that you can have the responders on scene be able to communicate and not lose critical information that's occurring because I think that it wouldn't stand or it would stand the reason that if we had an effective communication in any incident where you would lose that communication over the radio, that it would speed up our response instead of being detrimental.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, since you've segwayed over there, let's talk about the radio traffic because obviously that's going to be a huge load, not only on your own jurisdiction, but as you start to have your other neighboring jurisdictions coming in and they're jumping on your channels, the amount of radio traffic is going to go through the roof. Tom, are there anything that jumps out in your mind on how to prepare or manage for that?

Tom Billington:

Well, the main thing is being able to have the dispatchers, have them be able to adjust responses. Obviously on a normal day, if you have a structure fire, I know in the fire service, you may send five or six units to every structure for. When you have an active shooter event going on and other people would call 911 for other incidents, you have to be able to level that dispatch procedure out and make it lot less so you have less units on the road, less traffic. And hopefully, that's one strategy you can use. The other thing is radio discipline in training. Making sure people understand that you got to get off the radio, only important information should be transmitted and the less is better definitely.

Ken Lamb:

And to add on to what Tom was saying, I think that the dispatcher has the ability to recognize when an additional channel is necessary and can prompt that to the supervisor. So say for instance, we have the perimeter group that wants to be on the normal radio channel, but the dispatcher realizes we have all this information that's being shared on the regular channel. I think it would be great if a dispatcher would say, "Hey, perimeter group, group Sergeant, I can secure you a channel on a tactical channel if you would like to utilize that so you could just talk to your people and have the airspace to do so obviously in a clear and concise way." But prompting that would have that supervisor go, "Oh yeah, that would be great. So let's go ahead and switch to another channel, which would free up some airspace for some more necessary information over the normal channel."

Tom Billington:

And Ken, here's the challenge for supervisors. They need to start empowering these disruptors.

Ken Lamb:

Absolutely.

Tom Billington:

So many times you tell a dispatcher or ask this special, what would you do? And they might say, "Well, I'm not allowed to do this or I'm not allowed to do that." We need to let them know that when things are really busy, it's getting out of hand, they have the power and they should be assertive. They should be able to get on there and do some directives and ask some questions. A lot of times they're afraid they're going to have some repercussions from the upper leadership. So upper leadership has to let the reigns loose a little bit, let these folks do their job.

Ken Lamb:

Right, and so empowering those dispatchers to make those decisions I think is critical. And just as critical is us as police officers is being humble and understanding that we can't handle this on our own, we have to work together with our dispatch partners, our fire and EMS partners in order to solve the puzzle.

Bill Godfrey:

I think it's a good point about taking the active shooter incident and moving things to other channels where we can. As we address that in the curriculum and training, the two ones that are very good functions to carve off is the transport operation on the medical side is a nice fit to go to an alternate channel because you've got transport and triage standing in the same location with tactical sharing information. And I think that's a good one. That's a natural fit. Perimeter group is another one. Now the perimeter group supervisor ends up still having to have a second...

The perimeter group supervisor needs two radios on their ear. One to talk to their troops on their separate channel and then the other one to be able to listen in to what's going on with tactical on the command channel and also be able to talk to staging. I think the one hesitation I have about dispatchers prompting that, I think it's a good idea in so much as it's coming from dispatchers, who've had some training in this material and know what are those good functions to carve off versus suggesting something that doesn't make sense and could just interrupt the operation. But even before that, I would suggest and I think this almost gets into a preincident thing is what channels are going to be used how?

So we've got our regular day-to-day radio traffic and maybe that normally runs on the main channel. So when you've got your main channel with your regular traffic and then you get a big incident, who moves? Does the big incident move, which is problematic or do you move everything else, which can also be problematic? And that's not something you really want to have to figure out at the time of an incident. That's something I think that really needs to be worked out and have a plan ahead of time. But I think one of the things that you can do to carve down that radio traffic is to have that plan for shedding the load. I mean, Leeanna, what have you seen done on that for procedures to how to manage that when you get a major incident?

Leeanna Mims:

Of course, I mean, all of your assignments are pre-made and that's all done through policy procedure, IMS as to what channels that you're going to go to. And then another thing that gets kicked into place is a priority radio procedure, which in actuality, we should be operating in a priority radio procedure all the time where your communication is limited and you only say what you have to say in order to make sure everybody can get the communication in.

But depending on what groups are running, they switched to other channels and that's predetermined what channels that they're going to go to. And everybody knows that upfront and it makes the communication a little bit seamless. But in those cases, we're talking about maybe not the initial response happens a little bit down the road because in fire, we build out a little bit slower in our command structure. And I think when we teach and talk about an active shooter incident management, the most crucial time is in the beginning.

We pretty much know that in those first few minutes, that's the most crucial time versus on a fire. A little bit further deeper into the fire, that becomes the most crucial time because we're at a risk for flashover and so on. But I think maybe what we could talk about more is in that critical time, in that critical time of an active shooter, how important dispatch is, how important dispatch is in that, that realm of those first few minutes of making sure that the scene is secured and that shooter is neutralized.

Ken Lamb:

Sure, so I feel like we got the whole in-depth discussion on how to manage the radio because it's such a challenge in incidents like this. But when you spoke about some preplanning that could go into place as far as using which channels and how to operate on the radio, it kind of reminded me of what some instructors here put in place in my agency, Michelle Cook and Adam Penley, that a great job developing a script. And the script was how the active shooter response should go and then incorporated the dispatchers. So we all got in a room and each person had the script and it sounds really basic and you just run down the script of your position.

But at the end of it, you had an idea of who was supposed to say what and when and where. And it provided I think context for a dispatcher to understand, okay, this is how this is supposed to sound and look. And if it's not, then I have a good common understanding of when I can come in and say, "Have you established a staging area? Could you use another channel?" When you have those opportunities. And I thought it was a great idea and I think one that is of value when you're incorporating your dispatchers into the Active Shooter Incident Management process.

Bill Godfrey:

I think one of the other things that you can do in the dispatch center to begin to cut down traffic and manage that, dispatch has already have a way of talking that, certain cadence, a certain tone and flection and they manage their stuff pretty well in terms of what they've got to say and saying it succinctly, but many, many dispatch agencies, both on law enforcement and fire EMS do an echo thing where the dispatcher echoes back what they've heard. And day in day out, that works pretty well. But when you get one of these fast moving incidents, the attempt to echo everything can tie up a lot of radio traffic and create unnecessary noise.

However, there are some key things that should be echoed. So what I'm going to suggest here is the idea of selective echoing. So when you get a suspect description, when somebody says, "We're looking for this guy. He was last seen this location." That's probably a good one to echo. You get a report suspect down. That's a good one to echo. You get a report of 12 down in the lobby. That's a good one to echo. So those kinds of things. Where's the staging location? That's a good one to echo. The command post location, but not every little transmission. And that probably takes a little bit of thinking ahead of time and some selective stuff.

The other tool I think dispatchers have at their disposal that the field folks don't is the ability to push the button and do the alert tone. Most radio systems, not all, but most, the dispatcher trumps everybody else in priority. So when they key up, they're the ones that almost everybody's going to hear. And those tones that they have available can be useful for essentially, it's almost like, hey, everybody, shut up and listen, when you hear those tones and be able to put them out. Any other, before we leave radio traffic, any other thoughts or tips?

Tom Billington:

Well, Bill, you mentioned staging. I know Ken, you did earlier also. That is a major important dispatch procedure telling everybody where staging is. Once we get the core group on scene, we do not want people showing up on scene. And the dispatcher being able to say, "Respond to staging. Do not respond to the scene. Here's the address of staging." Very important. That stops it over conversions and stops the freelancing.

Leeanna Mims:

And just to follow-up in what you had mentioned, Bill, emergency radio procedures is what you're referring to there and dispatchers have that ability. And if the radio traffic is overwhelming to where they can't get that critical information out that the front end law enforcement needs, especially responding into an active shooter, absolutely, that's where they have the power if you would to take control of that radio channel and make sure that only the proper information is being relayed as long as they're trained and their procedures allow them to do it. And that goes back to what Tom had said about empowering dispatchers to make those kinds of critical decisions that only they can make.

Ken Lamb:

Yeah, and I think everyone feels like when they get on the radio, what they're about to say is super critical and they get frustrated when they can't get on the radio. But I think everyone involved understanding that we need to share the radio traffic and we need to all make sure that the information we're putting over the radio is clear, concise and purposeful. And I feel like if everyone has that common understanding and they're all trying to achieve that goal, then there will be more space on the radio to talk.

Bill Godfrey:

It certainly improves with practice. I mean, we see that even in training usually day one is a bit of a cluster on the radio. And as people get used to and familiar with the sequence of events and what the important stuff is, what's not. And quite honestly, they get reminded a little bit of radio discipline, shorten it up, does that really need to be said? I think those are all really good things. Before we leave radio traffic, I also kind of want to mention, larger dispatch centers, you've already got almost all the agent. You've got all the units on common channels and things like that. And so this doesn't necessarily apply.

But in medium and smaller sized organizations, it's fairly common to have mutual aid or agencies or other jurisdictions come onto your channel. Now in some cases, when you interoperate with people closely, they have your frequencies in their radios. They changed the bank, change which channel they're on and they get onto your frequency. And that's great. But in other instances, the procedure on paper is to start trying to patch channels together. We're going to patch this channel to this channel and we're going to patch this channel to this channel.

By the way, just so everybody knows because you don't have the video on this, I've got three instructors shaking their heads at me no, no, don't do that. And that's why I brought this up is that on paper, patching channels sounds like a good idea. And there are some occasions when patching channels can be tremendously useful and appropriate, but I'm not sure active shooter events is one of those cases. On the technical side, years ago in a different lifetime, I served on a number of these interoperability technical groups and I know that we can technically patch.

They're not all created equal. Some of them work really well. Those are few. Some of them, I'm trying to think of another word other than sucks. Some of them do not work well and just kind of... I mean, they can almost render the channel useless. So I wanted to kind of bring that up and just get the reaction. I mean, I already gave it away because everybody shook their head no. But Leeanna, you were the first one to shake your head no, what's your thoughts on patching?

Leeanna Mims:

Patching takes practicing the skill pretty regularly. And if you have any kind of a turnover in dispatch, it's hard to keep that level of expertise up and it doesn't always work. It just doesn't always work. My experience has been that patching just wasn't the answer and it definitely isn't going to be the answer in a situation where you're in a hurry.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, that was my feeling too. Tom, what about you?

Tom Billington:

Definitely the same thing. I think that it looks good on paper, but we don't practice it. And maybe once or twice a year, we may need to use it and that's the wrong time to learn how to use it because nobody's going to remember. So if it's not something you practice continually, I would advise against it. There's other ways to handle communications as far as having communications through teams, contact teams or rescue task forces all sharing one radio, things like that. But patching has never been successful in my experience.

Leeanna Mims:

And in some cases too with patching, you're not talking about just one agency. So your agency has to be able to know what to do with their side of the patch, another agency has to know what to do with their side. So that makes it even more problematic.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, it takes some thought, it takes some training, it's a little time consuming. As they would say up north, just forget about it.

Ken Lamb:

Yeah, so I have zero experience on how to patch radio channels. I can tell you that recently, we had an incident at our airport where there was a bomb threat on an airplane and we had the airport police, us and as well as the fire rescue department and a myriad of other agencies and oh, one of the fire rescue folks were like, "Well, let's patch these radio channels together." And I'm like, "That sounds like a great idea. We'll all be on the same radio channel." And it was a nightmare because everyone has... The different disciplines have different ideas of what radio discipline is.

And it was next to impossible to get on the radio at that point. And it was just... And you nailed it in that on paper, it looks great, but the practical use of it is very problematic and I'm a bigger fan of comm aides or as our instructor Don Tuten calls it, go and fetch, fetch and go. That's to me, you can cut out some of the nuances of communications between different disciplines by just having someone who's a subject matter expert in your field, being with that person and just telling you what you need to know right now as opposed to all this kind of other stuff that you really don't need to know.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, before we leave this, I also don't want to leave it with... Well, okay, you said patching isn't good. What's the answer? Well, we teach in training, the place to solve interoperability problems is in staging. When you're forming up your teams, you've got, I need four cops and they're all mutual aid. Okay, do you have this channel? Do you have this channel? Do you have this channel? None of them got the channel. Okay, who has this channel? You do. All right, I'm going to put one guy in this team of four and he's got the channel and you guys are good. Go, deploy them.

And so that's kind of our recommended answer is to solve that problem in staging. And if you've got a resource that doesn't have the ability to do communications, set them to the side and move on to the next one so that you fulfill your request, fulfill the assignment that you need to and then work on that problem as time moves on. All right, well, I think we're going to pause there and wrap up part one and then we've got a number of things we're going to come back to on part two of this. So Ken, Tom, Leeanna, y'all good to come back and do part two with me?

Ken Lamb:

Absolutely, looking forward to.

Tom Billington:

Oh, definitely.

Leeanna Mims:

Absolutely.

Bill Godfrey:

All right, well, thank you all for being here today with me. This was a great stuff. I'm looking forward to part two of this conversation. Karla, our producer, like to say, thank you to her for putting this together. And until next time, stay safe.

48 قسمت