The First Standard to Address Active Shooter Events

It happened again. Another senseless mass killing in another unsuspecting community.

Active shooter incidents and hostile events have become a common occurrence around the world. Over the course of just 17 months, from June of 2016 until November 2017, a trio of domestic attackers inflicted nearly half the casualties that the United States witnessed during the 13-year period from 2000 through 2013. In the first six months of 2018, the carnage continued with ASHER incidents in Benton, Kentucky; Parkland, Florida; San Bruno, California; Santa Fe, Texas; Annapolis, Maryland; and other locations.


To help authorities establish a unified planning, response, and recovery program — long before a perpetrator strikes — the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released NFPA 3000™ (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program on May 1. NFPA 3000 is not an operational standard operating procedure (SOP) or standard operating guideline (SOG).  It provides the framework that enables diverse authorities to establish comprehensive plans, policies, procedures and guidelines for dealing with ASHER events.

The seeds for NFPA 3000 were planted by Chief Otto Drozd of Orange County Fire in Florida after the Pulse Night Club massacre in Orlando in June of 2016. Drozd’s department was part of the team that responded to the shooting where 49 people died and 58 were wounded, so he knew that more could be done to help others dealing with tragic incidents. Familiar with NFPA’s long history of developing codes and standards, Drozd asked NFPA to create a standard that would help disparate organizations come together and proactively address the rising threat of hostile events.

In response, NFPA established the Technical Committee (TC) on Cross Functional Emergency Preparedness and Response. It is NFPA’s largest startup committee, and includes representatives from agencies and associations such as:

  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs
  • National Volunteer Fire Council
  • Fraternal Order of Police
  • International Association of Firefighters
  • Emergency Medical Services Labor Alliance
  • National EMS Academy
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs
  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • National Association of EMS Physicians
  • International Association of Emergency Managers
  • Emergency Medical Services Labor Alliance

The TC quickly got to work creating a comprehensive body of knowledge that would be beneficial for responders, facility managers, healthcare officials, policy makers, community leaders – and ultimately the general public. During a three-month public comment phase, the document received more than 100 comments — 97 percent of which were supportive of the standard’s development. 

As the TC reviewed input and addressed different considerations, the ferocity and frequency of ASHER events continued. Heightened concerns prompted committee members to solicit the NFPA Standards Council and get approval to create a provisional standard for only the second time in NFPA’s 122-year history. Provisional standards are developed when there is a serious life safety concern that warrants an abbreviated standards development process. In these rare instances, NFPA’s typical standards process cadence is condensed so that a document can be issued in a shorter time period in the interest of the public, and in this case, emergency responder safety.

Some of the challenges identified during the development and public comment phase for NFPA 3000 include:

  • Authorities have established protocols but they may not necessarily take into consideration all the different agencies, authorities, or angles when an ASHER event occurs. The time has come for integrated planning and response
  • The public does not know where to go or what they should do so better communication is needed prior to an incident so that people are well-informed
  • Finding a loved one during the aftermath of a hostile incident is very challenging; putting procedures in place and communicating will go a long way
  • More parties are addressing this topic, but we are lacking a global standard with key benchmarks and training to inform stakeholders on unified planning, response, and recovery
  • When an incident occurs, communities need to be resilient, and there is currently a lack of information on how they can achieve this

So what does NFPA 3000 entail? The four main components of the standard are:

  • Whole Community — realizing that these incidents affect all aspects of a community so it is imperative to work together to reduce risk and optimize safety
  • Unified Command – prioritizing a unified command structure that considers scenarios, authorities, roles, responsibilities, and communications with all key stakeholders involved in the process
  • Integrated Response – identifying organizational operations, incorporating the objectives of these agencies, and practicing integrated response together as a cohesive, well-connected unit
  • Planned Recovery – establishing a recovery strategy (immediate, early, and long-term) that is well-defined and turn-key for implementation

Some may ask why a “fire” organization has developed an active shooter standard. For more than a century, NFPA has brought together forward-thinkers from fire, public safety, emergency medicine, hospitals, public education, law enforcement, community risk reduction, facility management, code enforcement, electrical, engineering, the government, manufacturing and the built environment together to reduce hazards and address emerging issues. The association has a proven history of working with different disciplines on a myriad of topics — not just fire.

Our communities deserve a comprehensive strategy in place so that loss of life is minimized and peace of mind is maximized. To learn more about NFPA 3000, visit Montes is an NFPA Emergency Services Specialist who serves as staff liaison to the technical committees for EMS, Fire Service Occupational Safety and Health, Hazardous Materials Response, and Cross Functional Emergency Preparedness and Response. A nationally registered EMT, John has worked in EMS in several different roles, from the private service to Boston EMS, to serving as an EMS Specialist/EMS Duty Chief for the County of Santa Clara (CA) EMS Agency

Contact Us

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.