PowerPhone Emphasizes Role of the 911 Dispatcher in Active Shooter Incidents Following Sandy Hook Investigation

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Evidence reveals that the December shooting at a Connecticut school lasted just five minutes. The speed at which these devastating events occur indicates the potential influence a trained and empowered 911 call handler could have in offering pre-arrival survival instructions to people in the immediate vicinity before the arrival of responders.

Compared to the time and effort needed to equip and train an armed response team, a well-trained dispatcher is an economic and effective public safety resource.

On March 28, under Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-276 the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of Danbury, prosecutors released new documents, including five search warrants, related to December's shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The case is filed in the State of Connecticut Superior Court under case number CFS12-00704559. In a statement released with the court documents, state attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III revealed that less than five minutes elapsed between when Adam Lanza entered the school building to the moment he turned his weapon on himself.

The incident, along with other similar apparently random acts of violence, has sparked a national debate over ways to curb gun violence. Besides enforcing any legislative changes that may arise, public safety agencies have a duty to ensure they are able to respond effectively to these events. Commonly referred to as active shooter incidents, they are characterized as fast-moving, violent and possess a potential risk for a significant number of casualties.

Figures released by the Department of Homeland Security indicate that the average active shooter incident lasts 12.5 minutes, while the average law enforcement response time is 18 minutes. Unless law enforcement is present precisely at the time of attack, there will always be a delay between the initiation of violence and their arrival on scene.

This means that very often, the 911 dispatcher will be the first law enforcement representative to establish contact with victims or those closely involved with these dramatic events. Until responders arrive, the person predominantly in control is the shooter. In the time separating the first and last shots fired, those who have the greatest capacity to react and take back that control are the victims and potential victims.

Most people confronted with the horror of this type of incident will turn to 911 for help. Dispatchers are used to handling situations like this as a matter of routine, which to the majority of us are once-in-a-lifetime events. They are able to prioritize the level of response, while calming, reassuring and offering advice to protect or support those involved.

However, the random nature, speed and threat of mass casualties that active shooting incidents present, places greater significance on their role as public protectors. A change in society's attitude toward gun ownership or the introduction of gun control legislation could take years. The next active shooter tragedy could happen tomorrow.

For nearly 30 years, PowerPhone, a Connecticut-based company, has been training public safety dispatchers across the United States and around the world. In addition to instructing dispatchers in a patented, structured method of public safety call handling, the company offers a range of continuing education seminars, including Active Shooting Response.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, PowerPhone has decided to make its procedure for Active Shooter incidents freely available and has delivered free educational webinars that can be downloaded from its website.

Company Vice President Jerry Turk said, "The role of the dispatcher often gets overlooked because responders are more visible to the public, but in active shooter situations, the dispatcher can have a greater impact on protecting and saving life."

He went on to say, "Our training is based upon the principle of empowering the dispatcher to utilize their skills and experience in a structured manner. In active shooter emergencies, the advice they offer complements the recommended guidance of the Department of Homeland Security – namely Evacuate, Hide or Take Action. Compared to the time and effort needed to equip and train an armed response team, a well-trained dispatcher is an economic and effective public safety resource."


About PowerPhone
Built on the premise of One Number, One Protocol®, PowerPhone is the only provider of integrated police, fire and EMD protocols, training and technology solutions. The maker of Total Response®, a comprehensive system of protocols and quality assurance, PowerPhone delivers flexible guidance, innovative tools and proven methods to empower public safety professionals to make thoughtful, outcome-driven decisions. For more information, please visit http://www.powerphone.com or call 1.800.537.6937.

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Caitlin Kingsley
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