Many people mistakenly think that once the active shooter (or bomber) is neutralized, that the incident is over. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, church leaders and volunteers have an exorbitant amount of short, and long-term, work that must be done.
After the scene is secure, police, fire, and EMS will begin to sort patients by injuries. They will sort them by those that cannot be helped (deceased or not likely to survive), those that need urgent help (life-threatening injuries), those that need minimal help (injured but expected to survive), and those with no injuries (or very minor injuries), who are also known as “walking wounded”. In most instances, the walking wounded will be placed in a single location to allow more critical patients to be tended to first.
It is important to note that things will be extremely hectic, and public safety will have their hands full. Just like your church does not have an active shooting or bombing on a regular basis, police, fire, and EMS do not respond to these types of mass casualty incidents on a daily basis. It will be extremely difficult for public safety as well.
After the shooting is over, you should try to gather everyone into a predetermined area. Sometimes this will be determined by police, fire, or EMS. After be placed in an area, you should then do your best to account for everyone. During this process, you should do your best to ensure that nobody gathered at your meeting place is injured. In this initial stage, you should check each other for any serious signs of trauma, and you should monitor each other’s health until everyone has been taken to be checked out, or they have been released to go home. It is important to note that the shock of the overall incident may be so traumatic that some individuals do not even know they have been injured.
While the physical well-being of those around you should be the first priority after an active shooting, you should also take an account of the mental well-being of everyone. If someone is suffering mentally from the incident, medical personnel should be notified, and they should evaluate that individual to determine if they need to be seen. These signs of trauma may be a 500 mile gaze, not speaking (when they normally would), and severe crying to name a few.
It is also important to note that even though those that are present were traumatized, they may also need to console a victim’s family members who may have died or that is on the way to the hospital. In most instances, once word gets out about the incident, friends and family will respond to the church to get word on their loved ones.
Another important thing that should be done after an incident. You should make your best attempt to account for every person possible, and to the best of your ability, make lists that include:
- Missing individuals
- Injured individuals (including those taken by ambulance and those in your group)
- Those that were killed
In the pre-planning stage, you may want to create a list of everyone that attends the church on a regular basis and place it in a weatherproof box outside of the building or place it in a vehicle to make this task easier.
In large churches, known as megachurches, you may want to split accountability between two or three people by preassigned area of the church. Essentially, the church would be divided into zones, similar to the chart below.
Should you find that individuals are missing, you should notify law enforcement, so that they can take measures to identify if they have already been transported, or if the individual might be injured and still be in the church.
As I walk you through this process, it may be disturbing, but we as Christian’s need to ensure that we do all we can to reduce pain and suffering. Until tomorrow, … Mark