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Episode 45: ASIM Basic and Counterstrike (Part 1)
We are splitting this week's topic in two parts. First, we are discussing some tips and suggestions for instructors teaching ASIM Basic classes. Next week we will continue with the Counterstrike System we use for training scenarios.
Welcome to the Active Shooter Incident Management podcast. My name is Bill Godfrey, your podcast host. I've got with me today one of our C3 instructors, Adam Pendley, who's joining us from the law enforcement side. And today's topic, we're going to talk about... We're actually going to talk about two things. We're going to talk about the ASIM Basic class and some tips and suggestions for instructors that are either new or maybe a little rusty. And then, we're also going to talk about the Counter-Strike system that we use for doing the training scenarios. And so, we're going to split this podcast into two parts. Part one, we're going to talk about ASIM Basic, and part two, we're going to talk about the Counterstrike system. Adam, thanks for being here with me.
Yes, sir. Glad to be here.
So Adam, talk a little bit about some of the high points that you see in the ASIM Basic class that you think would be good things for our instructors who maybe have had a... maybe they haven't taught one in a year or so, with the gap with COVID, for those high points of what's the point? What are you trying to get home? Because ASIM Basic's a four hour class. It's not a lot of time to cover the material.
Sure, absolutely. So, the basic class itself, it's remarkably low tech, meaning you could set it up in a... As long as you have enough space, you could set it up at a firehouse. You could set it up in the conference room at your police station, because the board itself does not require any sort of radios or any sort of high tech stuff. The most high tech thing is the PowerPoint presentation to present the material, which of course you can do that on any screen, a television monitor, or even in a small group setting, even on a laptop if you had to. But the modules for the presentation, there's only two modules. And module one really hits, I think, on one of the key points of what is the main deliverable for understanding the Active Shooter Incident Management process, and that is that we're fighting two things: the killer and the clock.
And it starts off with that material. And when I help coach other instructors, I make sure that they emphasize the point that... like some of the other material we use, that you have people that are about to be threatened by an active shooter. And even though the active shooter, that threat, has to be dealt with, he may be the one trying to kill people. The other thing that's going to kill people is the clock, that if we don't have a good response or rapid response between police, fire, and EMS to get in, deal with the active threat, begin rescue, and continuing the clearing process, those priorities are the early focus of unit one. And then, it kind of goes into making sure that we understand the common terminology that has become the best practice across the country, and also understanding the validated ASIM checklist process.
And there's a very good demonstration video that has some audio to it that kind of shows how people would arrive and work through the checklist. And then, we discuss briefly how... after you get past the initial response, how you continue through the clearing process, how you also have to think about early intelligence, PIO, and reunification. And although in the four-hour class, we don't often have time to get deep into those topics, it's certainly part of that module one discussion. So, module one is really a boiled down version of most of the talking points that we we think about when we think about the Active Shooter Incident Management process.
I think that's a fantastic overview. We shifted gears a number of years ago to focus the message on, it's not just the bad guy, it's also the clock, because you've got to get ahold of that time that it takes you to get in, rescue people, stop the bleeding, and then get them on an ambulance to the hospital. I mean, that's the other thing is, sometimes we get into them quickly and then we kind of... We bumble things a little bit trying to get onto the ambulance on the way to the hospital, so that... The thread and the clock, I think, is a huge thing. And the terminology, Adam, I... Some of the high points for the terminology contact team?
Right. So, we define contact team as... A lot of police agencies understand contact team as kind of that hunter killer team that is going after the active threat. Well, in reality, a contact team is a group of two to four officers. And the number of officers aren't as important. That's a policy-based decision. But it's some number of officers that are downrange doing security work. So, it is a common term for the team of officers that may be... They may be the team that's going after the threat.
They may be a team that's securing a casualty collection point. They may be a team that is securing an ambulance exchange point, or a corridor, or providing a strategy that's guided by the tactical to hold a floor, or to hold a stairwell. So, contact team... We try to broaden that term a little bit to understand it as any sort of downrange security work.
Boy, that's a very, very good description, Adam, for those that are listening. I don't think there's very many places teaching this anymore. But they used to have so many names for different teams, these trailer teams and search teams. And it just got... It made the thing way more complicated than it needed to be. And so, we split it into contact teams and rescue task forces.
Contact teams focus on security problems, just like you said. Rescue task forces focus on medical problem, but they have their own security with them. Now, you also mentioned casualty collection point and ambulance exchange point. So, can you talk a little bit about what each of those are?
Sure. A casualty collection point is an area within the warm zone. And what we, again... Real quickly, what we mean by that is... The entire area, when we first respond is probably considered a hot zone until we have isolated, contained, or captured, or eliminated the active threat. Right? So, once we are able to push through an area and it is no longer a hot zone, we establish those casualties, or those people that have been impacted by the event, into a secured area within the warm zone where law enforcement can begin initial care, assessing patients, doing law enforcement triage, which is simply, "Hey, this person is... A serious injury is probably a red patient. These folks have some injuries, but they're able to move around. They're probably a green patient."
And calling out those numbers back to the rest of response is really important. But once you establish that casualty collection point, you are immediately ready to call for rescue task forces to respond. And of course, as many of us on the call know, that rescue task forces are a mixed discipline law enforcement and some sort of medical element working together, moving down range from the staging area to a known casualty collection point, a warm zone area. So, the security element gets them there safely. The medical element works for triage. And they make decisions about patient care once they get into the casualty collection point.
I think that's a perfect, perfect description of the casualty collection point. In a perfect world, which we do not always get, when the thing flows optimally, we're looking for the contact teams to quickly establish the casualty collection point. They're already down range. They know the lay of the land. They can look around. They understand the security implications. They know what they can and can't secure. And so, they're better suited to figure that out.
And so, we're hoping that the contact teams will establish a casualty collection point, so when the RTFs move up, they're moving up to a known casualty collection point. That doesn't always happen. Sometimes, it just doesn't get done before the RTFs get down range and that's okay. But that's our goal is to get them into a casualty collection point. So Adam, talk a little bit about ambulance exchange point and how that differs from a casualty collection point.
Sure. So again, once the RTF is into a casualty collection point... And to the point you made, once an RTF is there, they may have to assist with continuing to consolidate some patients into a casualty collection point, trusting law enforcement to secure that as a warm zone so we know that we have the safety measures that we need in place to begin that indirect threat patient care. But then, once that RTF... And hopefully, relatively rapidly, they do their own triage. And they start to separate a little further. And they have those red tag critical patients that need to be transported right away, then those yellow tag patients that have important care needs that may be able to kind of go secondary to the red patients, and then those green tag patients. And then also, the RTF would unfortunately separate those patients that are now deceased or black tag patients as well.
But once they have that first critical patients that are ready to be transported, in cooperation with their law enforcement security element... They may have come in to the environment through the front door, where everyone else rushed in to deal with the active threat. But once they're inside, they may see a service door that's off to the back, of the room that provides much better access to ambulances, requires much less caring of the patients, and allows us to move them with a lot less effort, and again, more quickly, because we're constantly fighting the clock. And they say, "Hey, right outside this door, can we secure this as an ambulance exchange point?" And so, through law enforcement, we need an additional contact team to secure that ambulance exchange point. Law enforcement handles that. The medical side, calling up through triage and the transport group supervisors, they create a route for the ambulances to come into that ambulance exchange point, pick up the next patient that needs to go, and then pull out.
And one or two ambulances at the most, kind of in a flow, go to that ambulance exchange point, load a patient, and then get on off to the hospital. What that allows for is you don't have ambulances lined up. You create a good traffic pattern. You create a secured area where you're... Once you're bringing a patient outside, obviously we're still in a warm zone. We don't have any known threats. However, once we start bringing patients outside, that adds to the security concerns. So, we want to secure that area as an ambulance exchange point, move patients out, get them onto the rigs, and get them to the hospital as quickly as possible.
Yep, absolutely. Perfect. I sometimes get asked by Fire EMS folks, "Well, wait a minute. That sounds like you're talking about the loading zone." And it is, with one notable exception. In a standard mass casualty incident where you've got triage treatment and transport, your loading zone set up, you don't have a security concern at the loading zone. The ambulance exchange point assumes that there is a security zone. You're either working on the edge of the warm zone or just inside the warm zone. And so, that loading zone, if you will, requires security. And that's why we use the term ambulance exchange point to define that that particular area for loading ambulance as one that requires some security.
So, I think that's a great description. Okay. So, you talked about mod one. We got the suspect and the clock terminology, the checklist, which of course, if you haven't seen the Active Shooter Incident Management checklist, it kind of runs through the heart of everything that we do and lays out the process, and the generally recommended sequence for how to do things. We learned experimentally that the sequence matters in terms of how quickly things can get done. So Adam, let's move on to mod two. Tell me a little bit about what you're covering in module two and what the focus of that is.
Sure. So, right at the end of module one, that's the time where we would get the students up and they do a kind of an initial walk through scenario, learning how to use the Counterstrike board. And we have especially tactical triage, and transport working together, command working together, and police and Fire EMS working together, the command area working together at staging. And it's very bumpy. We know, in all of our training classes, that first scenario is a little bumpy for folks to kind of digest the process and realize why this is important. So, module two picks right up with... The title is Response Integration. And it emphasizes what the students have just seen, that integrating the response at all levels is so important that even the first officer through the door, they're contributing... On a contact team, they're contributing to response integration by remembering to do that size up report, by remembering to call out the casualties that they see, because that information is so important to the follow on responders, and especially to scale the response from the fire EMS side.
So, response integration starts there. Then, we talk about response integration at staging, that we need fire, police at the staging area, at the same staging area. It's so critically important, so we can do response integration through the RTF, get those steady, start leaning forward, start working together to lean forward, again, to work against the clock. And then, we talk a lot about the importance of response integration at the tactical triage and transport level. And for those that might not recall, the tactical starts with what we call the fifth man concept, that after there is some number of contact teams that are in the crisis site, that are dealing with the active threat, that someone has to stay put and begin controlling the follow-on responders and applying some tactical direction.
So, that's the tactical group supervisor who's right there on the edge of the warm zone, close enough to control who goes in and who comes out, but also just far enough away that that first Fire EMS supervisor feels comfortable assigning someone to go down range and stand shoulder to shoulder with the tactical group supervisor to become the triage group supervisor and the transport group supervisor. So, that tactical triage and transport working together is the heart of the response integration, truly. And we spend a lot of time kind of explaining that. But the response integration continues further once... A little further out of the crisis site in a cold zone, you have that ranking Fire EMS supervisor, who is the medical branch director. And then, you also have law enforcement supervisors who arrive, who become the incident commander.
And then, we talk briefly, toward the end of module two, how, as you're scene continues to grow, that initial law enforcement supervisor who was in command becomes a law enforcement branch. And then, there's another law enforcement supervisor who becomes the incident commander. And there's an opportunity, at this point, as we have shared jurisdictional authority, that there's an opportunity for us to create a unified command and an operation section chief. So, we kind of finish out the discussion about response integration and how important it is at each level of the response.
So, I'm curious, Adam, what sticks out in your mind as kind of... For an instructor that's been through the training and is either a little rusty or a new instructor, what sticks out in your mind as kind of the common mistakes you see on that, when they're covering mod one, mod two, and get into the Counter-Strike scenarios?
I think the common mistake is to get too worried about how some of your local terminology may be a little different and that causes you to lose sight of the process. Obviously, when you're teaching anything, you're teaching kind of the perfect way to do it, that this is... You start at A, and you work through the process, and you practice... When you're practicing firearms, you're practicing in a very controlled environment and you're practicing doing it right. Obviously, the reality is that, under the stress of an actual incident, you may have to be creative. Same thing here, we should stick to the process and the way the material is laid out as closely as possible to provide that very detailed and accurate practice, so when the real world hits us, we have some things to fall back on.
Right? So, I think it's a common error too, for both the students and sometimes the instructors, to worry too much about, "Well, in our policy it says this," or, "Hey, when we went to this last week, it said that." I understand that. That might get in the way. But let's practice doing it the right way first, and then make adjustments as we go. So, I think that... Sometimes, across the country, terminology gets in the way a little bit. But the good news is... What I would also say is a common success is that it's amazing how often a relatively low tech training environment creates so many new discussions.
Just recently, we were delivering an ASIM Basic Train the Trainer course. And the agency that we went to had a very good, using the correct terminology, spelled out policy, but the policy was written by the fire side. And they talked a lot about staging. But they realized, during the training, that there was nowhere in the policy that indicated that law enforcement needed to come to the same staging area. So, it was a big thing for them to have that discussion and go back to the drawing board to make sure that that was included in the policy.
Yeah, it's interesting. And it's kind of along the lines of your highlight there on terminology and slight differences. One of the common mistakes I see is just that the line of communication, who talks to who, and how does the flow work? Contact teams talk to tactical. Tactical talks to law enforcement branch. Law enforcement branch, of course, is co located at the command post with the incident commander. But you'll see contact teams that just, out of habit or nervousness or anxiety, they'll call out on the radio, "Contact two to command", and kind of missing that. So, I see some of that. And I used to see that happen on both law enforcement and on the Fire EMS side as well, just some confusion over the positions. But the other kind of common mistake I see is that what we're looking to do...
One of the reasons that we co-locate tactical, triage, and transport together is... They've got different missions and they're working different radio channels, but they can kind of talk and de-conflict that and work that out. But one of the things that we want to do is, when law enforcement's the only one down range, tactical owns the whole mess, security and medical all alike. But once it gets triage and transport there, and then gets the task forces downrange, that medical traffic, if you will, that medical radio traffic should dump over to the fire EMS side.
But I frequently see both law enforcement on contact teams, and, quite honestly, tacticals that continue to get wrapped up in trying to carry forward the casualty counts and the medical information and coordinating a lot of things that, quite frankly, that's what triage and transport are there to do. Are there any others like that, that stick out in your mind, Adam, common things?
Yeah, absolutely. And kind of as an extension of what you just said, I find it that... Again, as more law enforcement supervisors and even Fire EMS supervisors arrive, they spend a lot of time worrying about the casualty count, the number. And that number is going to change as the situation evolves. And sometimes, it's important to change their focus a little bit to how many patients still need transport, right? That's the only important number during the initial response.
Yeah, absolutely. How many do you have left in front of you.
Exactly. The count of what we had earlier, we'll sort that out. And what we teach obviously, in module two, is how important that transport log is. That is ultimately the final accountability of where your survivors have been transported. Sometimes, I see a lot, where what I call just situational awareness type information, those counts, get in the way of trying to understand the forest for the trees, if you will, trying to understand the Intel that you're receiving, trying to understand the bigger picture. A lot of leadership gets really bogged down in trying to count numbers, when in reality, they should be looking at the bigger picture. So, we talk about that a lot. And then, the line of communication... What's really interesting, again, in the counter strike training environment, is we don't use radios. We actually just do... We spread folks out a little bit. And then, their voice becomes their radio.
So, we usually have to get people to change from saying, "Well, I would say this, or I would say that." No, just use your voice, act as if you're on your radio channel, and say, "Tactical from contact team one, we've established a casualty collection point in this location, in the environment." Right? And what that really does, and people really start to buy into this once they do it a couple of times, is a lot of these scenarios, in the real world, you've never been to anything like it. So, your brain does not have any, any pre-programmed messages to fall back on, unless you go through this training.
And then, when you go through this training, you're really creating some pre programming messages, so that under stress, you know what to say when the real world then happens. So, keeping that, trying to make people understand that using their voice as if they're talking on the radio is a really important training tool.
Yes, absolutely. I think that that is spot on. Okay. So, that really kind of wraps us up talking about the ASIM Basic class. We are going to come back in part two and talk about the Counterstrike component of it, and kind of how we facilitate those scenarios. Adam, thanks so much for being here with us. You're good to come back next week and talk about the Counterstrike scenario?
Yes, sir. I'll be happy to come back.
All right. Sounds good. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us on the podcast. If you have any suggestions or questions, please email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you to our producer, Karla Torres. We'll hope to have you back next week for part two of this. Until next time, stay safe.