The Police Chief, the Professional Voice of Law Enforcement
Advanced Search
September 2016HomeSite MapContact UsFAQsSubscribe/Renew/UpdateIACP

Current Issue
Search Archives
Web-Only Articles
About Police Chief
Law Enforcement Jobs
buyers Your Oppinion

Back to Archives | Back to May 2013 Contents 

A Paradigm Shift for First Responders: Preparing the Emergency Response Community for Hybrid Targeted Violence

By Tracy L. Frazzano, Lieutenant, Montclair Police Department, Montclair, New Jersey; and G. Matthew Snyder, Advanced Leadership Instructor, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Investigator, Waynesboro Police Department, Waynesboro, Virginia

  • A shooting on the street
  • A fire at a residence
  • An emergency medical technician treating a wounded civilian

drop cap Taken separately, each of these incidents hardly gathers national attention. They are the common duties of local police, fire, and emergency medical service (EMS). Responding to these incidents and helping people is “their job.” However, their jobs are no longer just these common incidents. Within the past year, the nation has witnessed a bombing attack on the Boston Marathon,1 the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history,2 a gunman opening fire in a movie theater after having set explosive booby traps at his residence,3 and firefighters being ambushed by a gunman while fighting a residential fire.4 These Hybrid Targeted Violence events, while rare, are extremely deadly and devastating to the families, the survivors, and the communities.

Each of them can be described as a Black Swan—an event that is deemed improbable yet causes massive consequences.5 In Nassim Nicholas Talem’s book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, he focuses on the extreme effect of certain kinds of rare and unpredictable events and the tendency to find explanations for these events retrospectively.6 This is where the paradigm shift in thinking comes into play.

Today’s Paradigm Shift

Historically, police, fire, and EMS personnel have viewed their roles as independent and to some degree competing for budget dollars and community recognition. Due to long legacies of pride in their respective discipline’s culture, turf battles have been known to exist. Some will say they still exist in the form of healthy and unhealthy rivalries.

Recent acts of violence have forced the realization that targeted attacks do not allow for such rivalries. The emergency response community must function as one team delivering maximum force to neutralize threats and save lives. Soft target attacks at schools, shopping malls, and movie theaters demonstrate the need for this change in preparing locally for a Black Swan event. This paradigm shift needs to occur to address Hybrid Targeted Violence where firefighters may need to fight fires in a “hot zone” while a sniper is at large—or the EMS medics need to render “care under fire,” and police officers may need to confront the threat of fire used as a weapon against them. First responders must recognize the interchangeable aspects of their traditional roles to prepare for and to face Black Swan events.

There is little doubt that additional resources to support training, exercises, and new equipment are in short supply. Despite this harsh economic reality, public safety leaders can still develop useful strategies to manage these complex hybrid hazard events. The time for firefighters, police officers and EMS professionals to discuss how such events will be approached is not when the incident occurs. Rather, it is now. Proper preparation can and will save lives.

The Crucial Dimension

The crucial dimension of Hybrid Targeted Violence response strategies is to recognize the unpredictable, rapid, and fluid nature of these chaotic events. The most important factor to recognize is that when the alarm sounds it is the reaction by the first responders that will determine the level of success an attacker achieves. The call up of off-duty and on-call assets will not be the primary force that engages these threats. The utility of secondary responders should not be undervalued but they should not be over relied upon to disrupt a hostile event that occurs without notice. The attack initiation-to-termination timelines for most of the deadly attacks in the United States (for the example, the Virginia Tech Massacre, Aurora theatre shooting, Wisconsin Sikh Temple shooting, Webster Firefighter ambush, Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre) reflect the reality that deaths occur quickly.7 Therefore, the whole emergency response community must be ready to immediately implement an effective and unified response strategy to these Black Swan events.

Once all first responders accept this paradigm change then policy and procedural questions can be discussed in ways that lead to truly innovative strategies.

Police, Fire, and EMS Leadership Meet to Improve Response to Gun Violence
By Bart R. Johnson, Executive Director, International Association of Chiefs of Police

On Tuesday, April 2, 2013, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), convened a meeting on “Responding to Mass Casualty Shootings–Strengthening Fire/Law Enforcement/EMS Partnerships.” Over 40 fire, law enforcement, emergency medical services (EMS), and government officials, including representatives of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), came together at the IACP headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. to discuss ways to better integrate, coordinate, and improve responses to mass casualty shootings. Participants identified the following critical themes as cornerstones of a unified approach that all parties could support:

  • Raising awareness on differences in response protocols within the first responder community
  • Integrating planning and training efforts as well as practical exercises across disciplines
  • Using NIMS/ICS as the platform for all state, local incident response efforts
  • Increasing communication interoperability to ensure an integrated response
  • Understanding the value of aggressively responding to active shooter incidents
  • Making sure all first responders have the best equipment available
All present agreed that integrated and coordinated planning, policies, training, and team building prior to any incident will ensure effective and successful response. Participants also concurred that the lessons learned from events like those in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, can help prepare other agencies for potential future incidents. The IACP, IAFC, DHS, and the FBI will continue the work begun at this meeting, working together to create innovative best practices and model strategies for responding to gun violence of all kinds, and in particular mass casualty shootings.

International Association of Chiefs of Police
International Association of Fire Chiefs
International Association of Fire Fighters
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Fraternal Order of Police
U.S. Secret Service
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
Cook County Department of Homeland Security
     and Emergency Management
Arlington County Fire Department
Arlington County Police Department
Ponderosa (TX) Fire Department
National Association of EMS Physicians
National EMS Management Association
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Fresno (CA) Fire Department
Chesterfield Fire and EMS
Greenbelt Police Department
Mobile (AL) Fire Department
MD Institute for Emergency Medical Services
National Association of State EMS Officials
Prince George’s County Police Department
Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office

Source: Blog posted April, 12, 2013,

Prepare by Training Together

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) has facilitated the advancement of a universal commitment to multidiscipline, multi-jurisdictional coordination in all-hazards environments. A decade of training and exercises built around NIMS has demonstrated the emergency response community’s ability to work cooperatively in large-scale disasters and mass casualty events. However, it is prudent to accept that NIMS will not provide the short-term incident management tools needed to address a no-notice Hybrid Targeted Violence attack. The first few responders arriving at the incident must be flexible enough to rapidly work together especially when statistics show that an active shooter event usually lasts an average of 17 minutes with the majority of life being lost during the first three minutes.8 This carnage, as witnessed in Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Newtown, unfolds quickly with lives being lost every few seconds on the way to a “hot scene.” Preconceived response plans must be established across the entire first responder community to reduce delays in the delivery of neutralizing forces and lifesaving measures.

Opportunities are available to close parochial response gaps with existing resources. For example, minor modifications to existing training, exercises, and drills can enhance the readiness of first responders to engage complex acts of violence. Active shooter training drills should be enhanced by including a working fire as part of the traditionally police-focused scenario. After all, fire and explosive devices are common weapons used by both domestic criminals and international terrorists. Police and fire responders should negotiate these hybrid hazards in a training environment that is forgiving. When real lives are at stake, police cannot afford to wait for a fire to be extinguished and firefighters cannot afford to wait to extinguish a fire until a shooter is neutralized. Similar enhancements can also be made to school fire alarm drills and lockdown drills. Combining a school fire alarm and lockdown exercise would very likely expose a level of confusion that is best revealed in a training environment. As noted by Michael E. Buerger and Geoffrey E. Buerger, the least effective school violence drill is the one that is conducted in ideal circumstances for teachers and administrators.9 The first responders need to train the way they will be expected to react and fight the aggressor.

“Hip pocket training” is a military phrase that describes impromptu training that takes place during downtime. First responders frequently use roll call gatherings to have short but meaningful education sessions. The traditional “quiet time” on shifts provides opportunities to hold dialogues about local complex Hybrid Targeted Violence response strategies.

Lessons Learned from Other Black Swan Events

Conducting a local perspective after action review of the mass killing or ambush killing events that have occurred in recent history will enhance knowledge.

While an official after action report is ideal for preparing the response and training plan, it is not necessary. The news media has taken full advantage of detailing time lines and comprehensive accounts of what responders have done right and done wrong at recent Black Swan events. Most agencies would benefit from studying articles from these events.

Using the descriptions of the events as they unfolded, consider each event from the perspective of an identical attack occurring at a local school, theater, shopping mall, or housing development. Agencies can make the scenario planning more realistic by imagining that the attacks happened at the same time and same day of the week. What resources would be available, what would their response look like, and how would all emergency responders work together? Planning for the known scenarios helps prepare all emergency responders for the next unknown situation.

Once local scenarios have been developed, conduct a table top exercise to assess the realties and practicalities of the training exercise. After the critical elements are in place, accomplish a dry run of the exercise for refinements. Conduct the training exercise and hold joint debriefing sessions to further develop the response of all first emergency responders.

Assistance Is Available

Organizations such as the National Tactical Officer’s Association (NTOA) have invested considerable attention in the development of operational response strategies to address Hybrid Targeted Violence events. The Multi-Assault Counter-Terrorism Action Capabilities (MACTAC) and actical Emergency Medical Support (TEMS) are two examples of innovative hybrid hazard programs that strengthen the response capabilities of those who will be called upon to engage these threats.10

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sponsored Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series (JCTAWS) is another resource that has embraced whole emergency response community responses to complex coordinated attacks.11 One of the most innovative aspects of the JCTAWS program has been the emergence of care under fire lessons. Care under fire, or direct and indirect threat medical training, involves the transfer of military battlefield–generated knowledge to state and local first responders. The goal of which is to prevent the death of otherwise survivable victims using the guidelines outlined by the Committee for Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (C-TECC).12

Improvements to responder readiness are advanced through lessons on complex medical treatment procedures, deployable medical equipment, responder personal safety initiatives, and defensive tactics. Fire and EMS professionals can offer law enforcement officers lifesaving training on self-aid and buddy aid. Conversely, law enforcement officers can provide practical training to fire and EMS professionals on the concepts of cover and concealment from small arms fire and ambush reaction strategies. Innovative training is attainable at little to no cost through creative partnerships.


A paradigm shift in thinking about how the whole emergency response community responds to Hybrid Targeted Violence events requires a desire on the part of public safety management and labor to recognize and understand these threats. The first responder community is an ever-evolving profession, consistently having to adapt to the changing hazardous environment. Whether it is the professionals personalizing the tragedies or the media coverage of an affected community causing the inspiration for change, a change in perspective needs to result.

First responders must prepare for, protect against, and respond to these threats collectively because not planning for the event will find responders fighting them together unprepared. ♦


1On April 15, 2013, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, triggered improvised explosive devices at the Boston Marathon resulting in the death of three people and injuring more than 170. On April 18, they assassinated an MIT police officer and later engaged Watertown, Massachusetts, police in a shootout where Tamerlan died. Dzhokhar evaded police until April 19 when he was apprehended, wounded but alive.
2On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, age 20, fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff members and wounded 2 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the town of Newtown, Connecticut.
3On July 20, 2012, during a midnight screening at the Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, of the film The Dark Knight Rises, James Holmes, dressed in tactical clothing, set off tear gas grenades and fatally shot 12 people and injured 58 others. Once apprehended, Holmes told police that he had booby-trapped his apartment with explosive devices prior to heading to the movie theater.
4On December 24, 2012, William Spengler, set a residence and vehicle on fire in Webster, New York, and then shot at arriving first responders, killing two firefighters and injuring two others.
5Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable 2d ed. (New York:
Random House, 2010).
7Raymond W. Kelly, Active Shooter: Recommendations and Analysis for Risk Mitigation (New York: New York City Police Department, 2012), (accessed January 10, 2013).
8National Tactical Officers Association Patrol Response to Active Shooter: Instructor Certification, Doylestown, Penn. (2003).
9Michael E. Buerger and Geoffrey E. Buerger, “Those Terrible First Few Minutes: Revisiting Active-Shooter Protocols for Schools,” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 79, no. 9 (September2010): 1-10, (accessed January 11, 2013).
10National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), “Training,” and “TEMS,” (both accessed January 13, 2013).
11Greg Keeney, “A Forum for Interagency Collaboration: The National Counterterrorism Center and the Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series,” InterAgency Journal 3, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 51–56, (accessed January 13, 2013).
12Committee for Tactical Emergency Casualty Care, “Overview of the Committee for Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (C-TECC),” (accessed January 12, 2013).

Tracy L. Frazzano is a Lieutenant with the Montclair Police Department in New Jersey. She was awarded the 2011 Center for Homeland Defense and Security Alumni Fellowship and was detailed to the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington, D.C., for one year. A 2010 graduate of the Center at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, she earned a Master of Arts Degree in Security Studies (Homeland Security and Defense). She also has a master of arts degree in Human Resources Training and Development from Seton Hall University where she was inducted into the academic Kappa Delta Pi and Golden Key International Honor societies. Contact Lieutenant Frazzano via email at

G. Matthew Snyder is an Advanced Leadership Instructor. He has been employed as a police officer with the City of Waynesboro, Virginia, Police Department since 1992. Formerly a full-time patrol officer, he now serves as a part-time Investigator assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division. In 2010, Mr. Snyder retired from the U.S. Army Reserve at the rank of Command Sergeant Major with more than 24 years of active and reserve service. He earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from James Madison University, and he recently completed all coursework towards a doctorate in education at Liberty University. His ongoing dissertation research is focused on training and education related to Hybrid Targeted Violence. Contact G. Matthew Snyder via email at

Please cite as:

Tracy L. Frazzano and G. Matthew Snyder, "A Paradigm Shift for First Responders: Preparing the Emergency Response Community for Hybrid Targeted Violence," The Police Chief 80 (May 2013): 36–38.



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXX, no. 5, May 2013. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

The official publication of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The online version of the Police Chief Magazine is possible through a grant from the IACP Foundation. To learn more about the IACP Foundation, click here.

All contents Copyright © 2003 - International Association of Chiefs of Police. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright and Trademark Notice | Member and Non-Member Supplied Information | Links Policy

44 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 200, Alexandria, VA USA 22314 phone: 703.836.6767 or 1.800.THE IACP fax: 703.836.4543

Created by Matrix Group International, Inc.®