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  • Determine the incident commander first. Do not spend too much time on this. Best to already have a Key Community Response Team (KCRT) set up, but if not, now is not the time to bicker over who is in charge. At the Aurora Theater Shooting, the Police Chief assumed the top position and maintained this spot even after State and Federal personnel arrived.


The Integrated Emergency Management System (IEMS) and Incident Command System (ICS) were weakened early in the event due to the immediate response of numerous local, state and federal agencies, three separate locations of the Incident Command Post (ICP), within the first few hours, and the deployment of many Mobile Command Posts (MCPs), representing support agencies. 1


  • Locate the incident command center with reasonably close proximity to the incident. Make sure there is enough room for parking, a sheltered area for distributing food and temporarily storing donations, and an office building to meet the sanitary needs of the emergency personnel. Additionally, the National Guard (if required) will need a location for tents and other equipment.

  • Consider a separate location for the media; roped off with access allowed only for credentialed personnel.

  • Consider a large, separate, restricted location for donated goods (in addition to the command center). The Red Cross has logistics expertise.

  • You will require a dedicated team to handle donation logistics

Property accountability at the staging areas and donated goods accountability were virtually non-existent during the major portion of the incident. City officials indicated that necessary manpower, experience and time were not available to conduct these operations. 1


No instrument currently exists that will identify when a requested resource arrives at its intended location. 1

Several items of individual equipment, needed by search and rescue personnel, might include: steel-toed work boots, heavy protective clothing, such as military Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs), gloves, hard hats, face protection, respirators with high efficiency particulate filters (HEPA), saranex-coated TYVEK protective clothing, long underwear, back supports, and protective eyewear. 1


  • Notify the State Governor or state disaster representative as soon as possible.

  • Involve federal agencies immediately.

  • Be prepared to manage multiple agencies from each of the local, State and Federal levels.

  • Fencing off the command center allows you to control media and onlooker access to the center.

  • After the event, cellular phone service may be disrupted. Consider standing up a temporary mobile site (cellular-on-wheels) to re-establish communications.

Due to the initial chaos following the explosion and nonemergency services transmissions, communications capabilities from the disaster site and between response agencies were limited at best. 1


  • Create primary and secondary triage areas; one nearby the incident and one beyond the debris area so that emergency personnel can quickly assess and transport victims.

  • Transport victims to the appropriate hospitals (trauma victims to trauma hospitals, non-trauma victims to regular hospitals).

  • Be prepared for subsequent "bomb scares".

  • Create a safe perimeter around the incident. An area where personnel can be assured is free from additional devices.

  • Be prepared for an onslaught of medical, police, fire and civilian volunteers to search the wreckage.

  • Consider implementing a day-pass procedure to restrict access to the site to authorized personnel only.

  • If a Resilience Center is not available, locate a structure such as a school or church to provide briefings and counseling to the victim's families (Family Center).  Twice per day briefings were sufficient at the Oklahoma bombing.

  • The Family Center should be staffed with clergy and mental health professionals. Support for this center is often provided by the Red Cross, The Salvation Army and others.

  • Rescue workers need to be fed. Local food banks can be helpful in this regard.

  • Send out a call for help to the local business establishments. They can help in ways you may not have considered (e.g. how many wheelbarrows or buckets will you need?).

  • As areas are cleared by the FBI, they will be fenced off. A great deal of fencing will be required (chain-link fencing).

  • Site access issues can be reduced by implementing a 12 on / 12 off schedules. Briefings before each shift and debriefings after each shift should be mandatory.

  • First responders will need at-will access to mental health professionals. Before a breakdown, they need to be able to speak with someone. Contact your local and state mental health agencies to help with this.

  • Set up crisis hotlines to help the general public.



  • Brief the President, Governor and media at least once per day.

  • Investigative units should maintain the briefing schedule that works best for them. In Oklahoma, briefings were twice per day.

  • A recommended order of precedence is

  1. locate survivors,

  2. remove victims,

  3. process the crime scene.

  • Whatever your own priorities, make certain that the team understands them.

  • At some point, the search and rescue mission must be called off, even if there are still missing victims. Danger to the rescuers must be taken into account when making the decision to cease operations.



After the Aurora Theater Shooting, a Community Resilience Center was established in the city, Aurora Strong. Establishing a similar center is of utmost importance in increasing the resiliency rates of victims, victim's families and first responders.


To do's missing from most shooting disaster plans that you must consider and implement immediately
I. Funding

In a great many cases, dozens of charities will pop up in the weeks following an incident; some valid some fraudulent. Even if all the funds were valid, the number of funds can be overwhelming. For example, following the Newtown shooting, 66 funds were created with an aggregate value of well over $20 million. Some of the money was earmarked, some was not. Who manages the distribution? Who fights the legal battles? We have found a way to avoid this problem. 


  1. Organize and designate a committee to handle funding issues

  2. Limit the number of funds to 2 if at all possible; allocate one for "Victims and Families", and one for "Victims and Victim Services".

  • Funds for Victims and Families must be dispersed solely to victims and victim's families.

  • Funds reserved for "Victims and Victim Services" can be spent on mental health care, rehabilitation services and any other service the victims or families may require immediately or over the years.

  • When possible, steer donations to the "Victims and Victim Services" fund because this will provide you greater flexibility for distribution.

  • Recommended dispersion is 60/40 or 50/50 for victims/victim services.

    • Victims will spend the money when it is received; however, victim's services will be needed on an extended basis especially during:

      • Anniversary dates

      • Similar occurrences

      • Court proceedings, if applicable​​


3.  Don't distribute all the victim's service funds immediately. Victims and their families will consume resources for years. Every time there is another event, 

mental health service use jumps. We recommend distributing no more than 50% of the funds reserved for victims and services initially.


4. It often occurs that family squabbles will interrupt the distribution of funds to victims' families. If these squabbles require court intervention, it will take at least three (3) years before any money is distributed. Additionally, lawyers and court costs will reduce the distribution amount by 40% and the person responsible for fund distribution will need to be paid for an additional three years. 


5. Most (75-90%) Federal money allocated for the handling of the incident goes to the Judicial (see below). You CANNOT count on this money being available for victims or services.


6. Find an iconic, non-political spokesperson to explain funding issues to the public

  • They should handle the publicity

  • A retired politician is suggested; not a current politician


7. Presenting a plan of distribution is highly recommended, including an explanation of the timeframes involved.


8. Creating prefund plans are highly recommended.


9. To avoid confusion, the name of the fund should not contain the word "Victim".


10. The NRC is in the process of securing 5 fund repositories that can be used at a moments' notice. This is to help deter the creation of fraudulent fund accounts. Contact us for more information.


11. Allocate 2-5% of incoming donations towards the maintenance of a Community Resilience Center

II. Media

The media will ​gravitate towards horrific and heart-breaking stories. As the adage says, "If it bleeds, it leads". It is best to be up front with the media. 


  1. Designate a PIO (Public Information Officer) with the responsibility of keeping the press up-to-date. No other incident team member should be allowed to approach or update the press.

  2. Set fixed times, usually twice per day to communicate with the press, unless there is breaking news.

  3. Call out their mistakes sooner rather than later. If you wait for a board to approve any message, it will be lost in tomorrow's news.

  4. Keep press releases simple and limited to a single page or less. Often, the media will use the release verbatim.

  5. Incident commander should set up a Joint Information System (JIS) to accumulate information and decide on what facts can/should be released. This group must make immediate decisions; if they wait days to respond to erroneous press claims, they will lose the opportunity to do so.

  6. Emotion trumps fact

  7. In social media, meanness trumps facts

III. Medical

In any crisis there will be victims. If there are a large number, the hospitals will be quickly overwhelmed. Even Boston hospitals had difficulty handling so many injured. Medical costs for victims and their families will normally rise to unaffordable levels causing greater hardship. We have learned some harsh lessons.


  • Perform triage in the field and route the victims to hospitals that cater to their injuries.  In heat of the moment, it is easy to shove as many victims into an ambulance and get them to the nearest hospital. This is not effective. Critical care cases should be taken to the nearest trauma center and the less critical cases to the nearest hospital. The reason is that most hospitals don't have a trauma center. Taking critically injured victims to a normal hospital reduces their chance for recovery. Alternately, taking less critically injured victims to the trauma center quickly clogs their beds so that they are not able to handle the more critical cases.

  • Hospitals can and will write off medical expenses for the victims, if you ask. Be persistent. It took three months for the final hospital to donate services after the Aurora Theater shooting.   Medical bills after the incident can escalate quickly. In Boston, for example several victims have incurred exhorbitant medical bills. This does not include additional care that will be required for artificial limbs, etc. 

V. Mental Health

When a rubber band is stretched beyond its resiliency point, it will not resume its normal shape again. It is the same with a person; if they are stretched beyond their emotional resiliency point, they cannot recover fully. 


  1. Counseling for the victims and families must start immediately. At Newtown, counseling started within an hour

  2. Remember to provide counseling for first responders. This will be an event most have never prepared for

  3. Remove the families to a nearby local facility; talking to other victims has shown to be one of the most effective forms of therapy

  4. Remember to engage the faith-based community, they can be of enormous help

  5. It's too late to prepare first responders when the crisis occurs, train early and often

  6. Strongly consider setting up a Community Resilience Center. Victims and their families, first responders, even community leaders will require an emotionally safe location to help them recover. As mentioned above, talking with other survivors has shown to be very effective for recovery.


IV. Judicial

In the heat of the moment, it is easy to forget the judicial element of a crisis. Almost always, at the end of the crisis, the courts and lawyers get involved in a very expensive manner. For example, when the Oklahoma bombing trial was moved to Denver, almost a thousand people were required each day to simply feed the number of reporters, witnesses and legal counsel. Denver had not budgeted for such an onslaught of on-lookers. We have learned that:


  1. Federal funding will be earmarked almost exclusively for upcoming court costs and legal fees. Do not count on them being available to pay for first responder overtime or victim restitution

  2. Costs for Judicial sector will quickly rise and will frequently exceed the amount provided in funding


© 2013 by The National Resiliency Center, All rights reserved.

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