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UAS and Active Shooter Preparedness

“How will we respond to an active shooter event in our community?” This question continues to burden public safety agencies across the country. According to a recent FBI report, Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2016 and 2017, there were 50 active shooter incidents in 2016 and 2017 which claimed the lives of 221 people and wounded 722 more. Thirteen law enforcement officers lost their lives responding to these incidents and another 20 were wounded. Shooters conducted their attacks in a variety of venues, including businesses, schools, places of worship, and open air concerts. As I speak with first responders and public safety leadership across the country, I find that most are evaluating how Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) or drones can be used to improve their department’s response to an active shooter incident.

Law enforcement, fire rescue, and emergency responders most often integrate UAS into their deployment packages to provide a responsive “eye in the sky” during critical incidents. I often meet these operators as they discover DroneSense in their quest to stream live video from their UAS to incident command and tactical assets. Indeed, a well placed UAS streaming video to responders on the scene is invaluable to help direct tactical efforts, assess casualty numbers and locations, and provide time-critical scene information that can help save lives.

Like any advanced tool, it takes practice to employ a UAS effectively under the pressure of an exigent circumstance. Not only does an operator need to understand the aircraft and supporting equipment he or she is employing, but have an appreciation for weather, airspace, nearby obstructions, network quality, and other environmental factors at the location of the incident. It is hardly necessary to articulate that the most effective place to practice is the same place a response might eventually be necessary.

That’s why I recommend that emergency responders and community leaders work together to identify facilities of particular interest and systematically conduct flights in those locations. Rather than just conducting training, though, I urge departments to routinely collect imagery at each facility from a variety of angles, identifing building numbers, door colors, fences, ingress and egress points, and any visible markings that may assist responding units. This is particularly important for large or confusing campuses where conflicting map, satellite imagery, and verbal descriptions can cause disastrously delayed tactical, fire, and medical responses.

Departments that fly regularly and keep a well curated response package for each location will maximize the likelihood that the responding teams will have the imagery and location intelligence they need to see through the chaos and quickly make wise tactical decisions.

The FBI Active Shooter Resources webpage provides a wealth of response planning information and Federal resources that departments can access. I also hope you’ll contact us at DroneSense to talk more about ways that drone operations can help your community be best prepared for an active shooter incident.