Lessons from 1 October
On October 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock a 64-year-old man from Mesquite, Nevada opened fire on the crowd attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip.
From his 32nd-floor suites in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, he fired more than 1,000 bullets, killing 60 people and wounding at least 413. The ensuing panic brought the total number of injured to approximately 867.
About an hour later, he was found dead in his room from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The motive for the mass shooting is still officially considered “undetermined”.
I am sure this blog intro reminds you of the incident; perhaps you were watching it on the news or you were inundated with news updates on your phone that night. The thing is, it was a long time ago and none of us have thought much about it since. We always say “I will never forget that…” but we actually do forget. Usually too fast.
I thought I would revisit that night and look through the lessons learned from the event that we could be applying to our everyday as emergency managers, law enforcement and responders. As you know, I strongly believe in looking back to see forward, so here I go again…
The Route 91 Harvest shooting in Vegas was the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in United States history.
With almost 160 pages of after action review, there is a lot one can glean from this incident and I want to grab just a few of those things and bring them to the forefront right now.
That night, more than 22,000 people came together to enjoy that country music festival. On the third and final night of the festival, the lone gunman opened fire into the crowd from the 32nd floor the hotel firing for 10 minutes which had to have seemed like a hellish eternity for those on the scene. Paddock fired over 1000 rounds into the crowd from various rifles.
Below I am going to quote a recommendation and then add some thoughts to each.
Recommendation #1: Maintain open communication with key stakeholders in the tourism industry by holding monthly meetings and sending notifications when necessary to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Las Vegas Security Chiefs Association, and community stakeholders.
This is an excellent idea and can mitigate a lot of issues when the time finally arises. It is true not just for the large city/large event scenarios but is a good idea even for smaller cities and countries. For many years we were quote successful holding meetings like this with County Fair Commissioners and found that many of them never gave much thought to evacuation difficulties or the challenges that could be posed by a tornadic storm approaching several hundred people sitting on metal bleachers at a truck show!
We were able to help write and rewrite disaster plans, meet with EMS, law enforcement and fire along with organizers of special events which opened up amazing conversations. Another suggestion I have is that once you have started these meetings, make your notes available to neighboring cities and counties so they can start their own meetings and planning sessions.
One last thought here – have someone write up your disaster plans in short form for the vendors.
Recommendation #2: Support the education of and partnership with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Las Vegas Security Chiefs Association with awareness training on “See Something, Say Something” as well as “Run, Hide, Fight.”
You would think that this goes without saying, but education is key and there is no way you can hang too many posters or have too many advertisements covering this subject. Make sure that there are clearly marked locations across the event grounds where people know that they can go to report things (law, EMS, fire, etc). You may want to mark these areas like we do with FoxFury Nomad light towers that have color bands on them. We have found that the lighted visual leaves little to error and can be used to designated whether a location is law, EMS or fire or just a safe space.
Recommendation #4: Provide MACTAC response training to hotel and casino industry stakeholders as well as community partners, schools, churches, and those supporting critical infrastructure.
Often times, especially at fairs, we see local organizations being loosely used as “security”. This may be only for informational purposes or parking but these people are critical to a successful evacuation or response. Hold a training with these groups before the event to make sure they understand what a large role they can play in safely moving or protecting people should the need arise.
Recommendation #6: Develop curriculum and train all commissioned officers on clearing techniques for larger-than normal establishments/venues, such as open-air events.
This is rarely an exercise we put on the calendar because more often than not, the large event in most communities only comes once per year. It does not take a lot of effort to hold a full scale exercise on the grounds for just 40 minutes. Establish staging, boundaries, safe locations, back-up locations and some scenarios.
Recommendation #8: Ensure ICS protocols are followed and employee “shooting survivors” directly involved in a significant incident and/or MCI are sent to staging as they are relieved from their post. All department member “shooting survivors” should be identified and documented for later debriefing and wellness plans.
The night of 1 October, man responders that responded while off-duty also left the scene after they were done without checking in. There is, to this day, no idea how many responders were actually on scene nor how many could have been affected by the event. Make sure that you have a safe space large enough to use as a muster point for all responders involved in the incident and train your responders that even though they respond while off-duty to just “lend-a-hand”, their response has now become a part of the official response.
Recommendation #11: During large-scale events, identify a secondary location for a command post in the event the primary command post is inoperable, and include this in the Incident Action Plan. Incorporate this concept into training.
Usually during a large event, we will place a command post in a “good spot” but not always the best spot. Make sure that you have the ability to move your command quickly to your secondary location. Several years ago we placed our command trailer between vendors and were unable to move it when we needed to in the middle of the night leaving it not only hard to reach but also in a vulnerable position that had seemed safe prior.
Recommendation #58: Establish policy that requires Agency leaders to debrief operations, response, resources, and communications following a significant incident.
This kind of takes us back to Recommendation #8. ALL responders should be instructed to stay in a single location before leaving for investigation purposes as well as for reporting purposes. It is also wise to quickly determine what day of the following week and where you will be gathering them all again so they can add to reports and the investigation after the adrenaline and shock has worn off. This policy will also assist you in beginning to determine just what kind of counseling and critical stress intervention your responders may require.
Consider these two meetings to be similar to exit interviews.
Recommendation #65: Provide a surge supply of trauma kits within proximity to major events.
Please. Seriously, please. In all my years of working as a responder, I have rarely seen event organizers do anything more about this than assume the EMT’s will “have it all”. The average ambulance can treat two to four casualties before becoming transport. There is NEVER enough trauma kits available. For years I have encouraged emergency managers to invest in trauma kits that re selected by their local EMS personnel and kept in the emergency management trailer or office to bring to large events.
Recommendation #70: Establish an information technologies team that can respond and provide IT support during significant incidents and/or MCI.
Give some authority to your PIO. It is a good idea for every PIO to create a team of volunteers from the community that will respond to an incident strictly to assist in social media monitoring, output and messaging via online avenues. These force multipliers can make a PIO’s job a lot easier and can serve the community much quicker than just the PIO office alone.
These were just a few of the recommendations made after 1 October, but maybe there is enough here to get some of you thinking about the upcoming summer season.