Teamwork - Improving Response Efficiency
John Curnutt, ALERRT Assistant Director
Wayne Freeman, Sr. Special Agent, Active shooter and CCTA Training Unit, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division
Shana Dewey, Communications Operator Supervisor/AICC, San Antonio International Airport
The ALERRT Program is constantly researching Active Attacks for lessons learned. One of the first lessons we learned is that effective communication is critical to bringing order to the chaos found on scene. Ineffective communication impairs the ability of first responders to coordinate to stop the killing and stop the dying.
Public Safety Telecommunicators are a critical piece of the response picture that had been largely ignored. Telecommunicators receive the calls from people inside the crisis and start the community response. They sift through an avalanche of information from panicked callers to provide actionable intelligence to the responding units. They facilitate and coordinate information exchange between different response disciplines when multiple agencies request mutual aid. They initially perform some command-like functions in helping to keep track of and tie everything together. Yet, Telecommunicators have been mostly left out of the response conversation over the past two decades.
When we started doing integrated training, we recognized a consistent theme. First responders would frequently mention the disconnect between what they had trained to do and what Telecommunicators were asking from them. The disconnect was because Telecommunicators hadn’t been involved in any of the planning or training up to that point.
Because we have largely left Telecommunicators out of preparation picture, they developed their own training for Active Attacks. This training was a good start, but it created another response silo with Telecommunicators doing their own thing.
To eliminate this silo-ing, Telecommunicators need to train WITH other responders. This includes stress inoculation training in as realistic a setting as we can manage. When training time and money are in short supply, how do we do this? We found that by simply inviting Telecommunicators to the training conducted for LE, Fire, and EMS helped them gain perspective about what other responders were trained to do, the issues they were facing, and how Telecommunicators could help manage the chaos. Using radios during training scenarios allowed everyone to work through the dynamics of managing the radio traffic and dealing with communication barriers. [PB1]
Telecommunicators also gain valuable insight by working as role-players in scenario-based training. They can experience the chaos from inside the scenario, which helps them understand what panicked callers are going through. ALERRT’s Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) is an online, train-the-trainer course. Telecommunicators can take this course for free. The course will help them understand not only the response options they can coach callers through, but also the impact stress has on people’s emotions and performance.
The national Stop The Bleed campaign was started to make this nation’s citizens better prepared to save lives during emergencies. Having Telecommunicators take part in Stop The Bleed type training allows them to not only coach 911 callers (or even other responders) through lifesaving actions, but also help themselves if they experience a medical emergency.
Since the very beginning of Active Attack response training, we have taught that the most important ingredient for success in this team sport is communication. Public Safety Telecommunicators play a vital role in creating and maintaining effective communication among the different players and positions. It is critical that a major player in the effectiveness of our team response takes part in team practices.