After bombings like the one that took place at an Ariana Grande concert last night at the Manchester, England, Arena, or the coordinated attacks in 2015 in Paris or at Mumbai in 2008, it behooves municipal leaders to focus energy and resources on emergency preparedness.
EMS teams can do threat assessments for mass gathering venues, and there are critical public safety and communications planning tasks essential for municipal governments to get ahead of.
#1 Review EMS Protocols for Bombings at Mass Gathering
According to a rapid response by EMS1.com after the Manchester attack, the top questions municipal leaders should ask are:
- What are the upcoming concerts, sporting events, festivals and rallies?
- How has EMS partnered with law enforcement to pre-plan and practice MCI response?
- What do local first responders know about assessing and treating blast injuries?
The steps advised are:
- Review blast injury assessment and treatment
- Anticipate secondary devices, actors and shooters
- Anticipate EMS will respond and transport the most severely injured
- Plan and practice patient tracking procedures
- Continuously hone risk and threat analyses for nearby mass gathering locations on an ongoing basis
#2 Plan for Public Safety Response at Multiple Locations
Not all mass gathering attacks are perpetrated by lone wolf actors or are suicide bombings. Evaluating the potential for a second device, actor or shooter should be part of an incident’s response.
Last September, New York City encountered multiple devices after a pressure cooker bomb exploded on a Saturday night in Manhattan. Coordination among public safety and surveillance operations — along with a mass communication via text — led to not only the safe capture of the three yet unexploded devices, but also of suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami within the first 48 hours.
While municipalities may need to set up incident command systems (ICSs) for bombings like the Manchester Arena Ariana Grande concert attack, cities like Mumbai or Boston, or counties like San Bernardino, Calif. or Broward County, Fla., need them for multiple coordinated attacks at public places.
ICS is an emergency response coordination model developed in the 1970s for command, control and organized response of both near and long-term field-level operations for a broad spectrum of emergencies, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency Emergency Management Institute.
Most cops groan at the mere thought of organizing ICS, so add to your response list the local and state emergency management agencies. Go do your cop stuff and let the ICS gurus organize it for you. Every state has Incident Management Teams — folks who live and breathe ICS — so turn ‘em loose and they’ll organize down to the tiniest detail,” advised Richard Fairburn, a criminal intelligence analyst on Police1.com last year.
Fairburn noted there are three things cities and counties will need for response to multiple terrorist attacks:
- Every available officer
- Organized response under the fire commander
- An intelligence director with a recon team
After Mumbai in 2008, Fairburn wrote a three-part series on Multiple Assault Counter-Terrorism Action Capabilities (MACTAC) that was used by the National Tactical Officers Association and Los Angeles Police Department in their rapid deployment and response training.
#3 Organize Risk Communications & Social Media Crisis Strategies
The community and news media will be looking to municipalities and various agencies for statements and information. With social media, there are opportunities to quickly disseminate messages and instructions and clarify misinformation, such as what happened in Manchester after the concert bombing.
Amid all the chaos outside the stadium, there was a rumor ripping through social media that the local hospital had an active shooter. According to The New York Times, two local news affiliates reported on it, and the local council’s police agency took to Twitter very quickly to reconcile the erroneous information.
Police have attended an incident @roh
Scene searched, no offences and all staff &patient’s are safe &well
— GMP Oldham (@GMPOldham) May 23, 2017
Express.co.uk then confirmed that while there was no active shooter, the hospital was on lock down. The police agency also confirmed 19 dead — not 22, as was widely reported in the hours following the event.
In addition to basic crisis communication plans, municipalities can develop a separate social media crisis communications plan. Social media crisis communications requires active social listening or monitoring, fast response and coordinated messaging.
Basic crisis communication planning developed by the Minnesota League of Cities in 2008 recommends the following steps:
- Establish key audiences
- Identify communications vehicles
- Choose a spokesperson
- Draft key messages
- Organize and update information
Hootsuite recommends the following guidelines for social media crisis management:
- Define roles and responsibilities
- Develop a communication plan for internal updates
- Approve and disseminate messaging, images and information to post and share on social media
- Share the most current social media policy with staff