EM Forum Presentation — July 25, 2012

Emergency Management Community Planning
for Civil Unrest and Protests

August Vernon
Operations Officer, Office of Emergency Management
Forsyth County, North Carolina

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/FirstResponder/CivilUnrest.pdf
A video recording of the live session is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm120725.wmv
An audio podcast is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm120724.mp3

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome to EMForum.org. We are very glad you could join us today. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Moderator.

This past year, we have seen a number of demonstrations around the country, and with the political conventions coming up, we may be seeing more. We thought it would be a good time to look at this topic, and learn about the unique planning considerations for these types of events, basically at the awareness level.

[Slide 1]

Now it is my pleasure to introduce August Vernon. This is his third time with us, and you may also want to check out the previous program he did for us about a year and a half ago because, unfortunately, that topic is also timely.

August has been employed in emergency management for eleven years and also served with fire services and as a fire service instructor. For four years he served in the U.S. Army as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Operations Specialist. He has also written many nationally published articles and authored The First Responders Critical Incident Field Guide.

Please see today’s Background Page for further biographical detail and related links. Welcome back August, and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


August Vernon: Thank you very much, Amy and good morning or afternoon to everyone who is one today. I know we have participants from all over the country. Thank you for the opportunity to be here. We have a lot of information to cover so I will go ahead and get started on the program.

I think where this comes from—I know for those from the emergency management realm every time we have ever done an emergency management assessment looking at hazards, risks and vulnerabilities in a community—and I’ve been involved in these and seen others—we always tend to list civil unrest, riots and protests under those human caused incidents, but there is never any information or training available for emergency management on what the role of emergency management is for planning for those types of events.

I thought it was important to do this training for emergency management. This is not how to deal with rioters or gather intelligence—this is more looking at how the community can prepare for these events, what has happened in the past and what we can look forward to.

[Slide 2]

To follow up what Amy said, last year on January 27, 2011—we did a short awareness level webinar on mass shootings planning and response awareness. That is available at the EM Forum archives. I would strongly encourage you to go and take a look at that. That course, like this one, is typically four hours long.

We try to do these webinars at thirty to forty minutes long in length for awareness but if you go back to the archive we have both an audio and PowerPoint available for you. Obviously with what happened in Colorado that is important right now.

[Slide 3]

When it comes to these types of events we definitely need to recognize to have a safe and successful response to these situations, whether they are large or small, is very important. To prepare for these incidents, like any other critical incident, it is going to take some planning, preparation and some training on a community.

Statistically the likelihood of a civil unrest incident is low but public safety agencies and officials really need to look at this and plan for those. We always seem to identify that as a hazard in the emergency management realm but we never really focus on that. Also, recently across the United States there have been a lot of incidents going on. So I think it is important to train for those, especially with us getting into the election cycle. There have been events overseas and these all show us that locally, regionally and states need to look at how we can adequately plan for this.

The normal class that I do on this is typically three to four hours. So this is an awareness level course and I will try to briefly cover a few topics involved with this subject.

[Slide 4]

My methodology instructor twenty years ago told me we always need to have a goal in a class. Our goal is to provide our listeners with some basic tools and information needed to develop a plan or assess a plan, or if you are going through some type of planning process—how can we assess that? What do we need to use to prepare for that?

With a diverse group like we have on this webinar I am not trying to tell you how to train and plan for this because every jurisdiction and community is different but rather what is going on and what you need to look at as the issue of the threat.

[Slide 5]

I will start out by saying that I think it is very important in the United States that we have the right to protest. That is very important. The definition I am going to try to focus on is the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and I am not going to read that definition to you, but basically it is the unlawful assembly that has the potential for violence.

I go back and highlight in red that the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees us the right to peaceful assembly and our right to petition the government and I think that is very important. My focus in not just on protests and how to get permits for those and how to plan for those—I am focused on those rare occasions when that line is crossed and public safety becomes a concern to the community. I wanted to start out saying that.

[Slide 6]

It’s kind of timely here and I am not even really paying attention to this, but in Anaheim, California they have had a couple of nights of issues of some civil unrest going on—some protests and violence. They actually stormed the police station—some disturbances going on related to an officer involved shooting fatality that occurred this weekend.

Also I just saw that right before I came on the same thing is going on in Dallas, Texas right now.

They have had an officer involved shooting fatality that has led to some confrontation and issues and civil unrest issues. That is what we are talking about right here. These are timely. These incidents can really happen anywhere—any jurisdiction, big or small.

[Slide 7]

The first process with any threat whether we are talking about terrorism, a plane crash, flood, tornado, mass shooting or civil unrest is you want to look at what has happened before, what the threat is, what could occur. One of the ways you do that is—where have these events occurred before.

Civil unrest events can occur for a variety of reasons. They don’t just occur in large urban areas. How can these happen? How have they happened before? Sometimes you will have peaceful demonstrations and protests that can turn very confrontational. You have had issues recently with sporting events—celebrations or losses. It does surprise me in some areas whether they win or lose there is going to be civil disturbance, but that happens with sporting events.

Some concerts, some of these block parties that have turned into confrontations, some planned political conventions—we are prepping here in North Carolina for the Democratic National Convention and also the Republican National Convention is coming up, so those obviously can be disrupted.

There are also areas we will call "hot spots" such as research facilities, Planned Parenthood locations or like the incidents in California and Dallas, Texas—officer involved shootings can lead to this happening. Turning to more recent threats of terms we can look at are the flash mobs.

Ninety percent of flash mobs are harmless and fun but some are flash mobbing for purposes to cause serious issues, and occupy events—that term is kind of new this year. Again the majority of occupy events are safe and no problem but some have led to some serious problems and confrontations.

There is a wide variety of incidents that can cause a civil unrest to occur in a community.

[Slide 8]

Continuing on that thread, near college campuses—it seems with some of these sporting events whether they win or lose there can be civil unrest. Most March madness events turn out fine but every year there seems to be issues with that with students becoming very disorderly and impacting the community.

Communities that have major sporting events, especially where people are emotionally tied into—I think you need to look at planning. You are already planning for a sporting event—this just needs to be a component of that plan.

We are entering the political season and a hotly contested political season—the RNCs, DNCs, Presidential debates, G8 Summits, G20 Summits, and all the other summits that take place—they have historically had some type of confrontation occur.

[Slide 9]

There are a couple of ways I have seen these broken down. You can call this organized—your planned events—sporadic, which are college campuses, sport events, concerts, flash mobs, Mardi Gras, spring break incidents, racially driven officer involved shootings in certain communities. If you a prison or jail in your community they have plans in place for a disturbance. You need to know what those are because in some of these facilities if they have a large enough incident that is going to involve local response agencies to be involved in that.

[Slide 10]

As far as the process, especially for looking at those human caused incidents like terrorism, civil unrest or mass shootings, we have to look at who is the threat—who is actually doing this, who can be the threat. This is part of that intelligence and information sharing.

When we look at these civil unrest events and these names can shift around a little bit depending on what is going on at the time—recently we have had a lot of the anarchists and black bloc. I’ll talk a little more about what a black bloc is. There has been some anarchist related violence going on in the past few months in several cities.

Extremist groups of varying types and flags and color—all types there you could have issues with. In a lot of communities—and I think we are seeing this in Anaheim and Dallas even now with what is going on there is your local gangs are going to take advantage of this. They are going to be involved in this and maybe make it much worse. They are going to take advantage of that.

Also enflamed and emotional crowds can lead to these issues. Events that are controversial can lead to issues. I can say in a lot of these concerts and sporting events and block parties a lot if this is alcohol fueled. That can lead to a lot of issues. I can even relate back to my days in the fire department and running medical calls into some of these events. If there is alcohol in crowds, that is going to lead to problems.

When you are looking at the threat when you are planning an event—who is the crowd? That is a way to simplify that. What type of event is it and who is the crowd? Obviously 99 percent of events and concerts—on the Fourth of July here our family gives an event here with thousands of participants and there is never a problem. We have to look at who is the threat, who is the crowd and what is the event.

[Slide 11]

Just a couple of examples here pulled out—I’ve got a lot of these. Some of these are a few years older. In Knoxville, Tennessee 500 University of Tennessee students led a rowdy party celebrating football team celebration and it got out of hand—people throwing debris, setting fires and being arrested.

In Durham, New Hampshire a hockey loss during a championship game—people were arrested, people throwing beer cans and rocks at police officers and firefighters and fires being set. I’ll just show different kinds of events and different communities it can occur.

[Slide 12]

In Columbus, Ohio after Ohio State defeated Michigan State you had fires and fighting and looting going on there.

[Slide 13]

In Cincinnati, Ohio a few years ago in the "Over the Rhine" neighborhood—this was due to a police related shooting fatality again. This led to three days of violence with over 100 arrests and 100 injuries. You had looting, vandalism, arson fires—and this was an event that was heavily led by gangs. As I said earlier your local gangs are going to take advantage of this.

[Slide 14]

I talked about this one earlier. Why I wanted to bring this up is sometimes the thought is that law enforcement will be assaulted but fire and EMS won’t be. That doesn’t apply anymore. You had firefighters and medical personnel getting injured—people throwing rocks and bottles at them.

[Slide 15, 16]

This was in Benton Harbor, Michigan. This was due to a police shooting fatality. They had looting, vandalism and arson. They key thing here—they had three days of riots. Benton Harbor was a small town of only 12,000 people. It does not necessarily have to be a larger community where these events can happen. They destroyed homes, police trucks and fire cars. They had a lot of issues in Benton Harbor.

[Slide 17]

A different type of event—we’re talking about a planned event. This was the Miami Free Trade protests. A couple of thought processes here—when these big events come up just like here in North Carolina, we are preparing for the DNC. Some of the groups that are going to be there protesting are planning up to months before.

What happens—and most protests are peaceful and people have that right—especially with anarchists is that they are going to show up in the crowds and they are going to incite violence in small numbers. When they show up at an event there needs to be concern there.

They will use improvised weapons like sling shots that shoot ball bearings or marbles and things like that. This happens again and again and again where these individuals are at.

[Slide 18]

I am using this Free Trade event to show you some things that happened that you have to plan and prepare for. They would fill bottles with urine and feces and launch those at law enforcement. Miami was tied up for several days with thousands of protesters.

The key thing here is that the majority of those protests were peaceful. You had puppet shows, street theater, music and bands and so there was very limited violence but that is what some of these types of groups want. They want to come in and disturb everybody and cause problems in larger crowds.

[Slide 19]

We could spend an hour or two just talking about anarchists and black bloc but I just wanted to throw this term out because you are starting to see it again. We have already heard it several times this year with some of the events in the United States that have been going on.

Black bloc is more of a tactic that these organizations will use. It can be a collection of anarchists or affinity groups that come together for this specific protest. They are going to be held in reserve just like law enforcement is held in reserve. They are going to show up to disrupt a mass arrest and to cause confrontations.

There is nothing positive about a black bloc so you’ll just have to be prepared for that when you hear this term. Why they wear masks and dress in all black is they are representing the mass of humanity. They are not an individual—they are a black bloc of one. Be familiar with that term if and when you hear that. There are not a lot of positives coming out that term if you hear of that showing up in your community.

[Slide 20]

This is self-explanatory. There are a lot of lessons learned in these events. The one on the left was the big hockey championship in Canada. The one on the right was one of the officer involved shootings. When people start lighting fires you have to get these fires out as quickly as possible because they are a magnet for people.

Once one fire is set it is going to lead to more and more fires. It is a planning process you need to think about.

[Slide 21]

This is a picture from years ago when we did some training here. The protesters, even in a peaceful manner, will chain themselves together, put their arms in cement blocks, put their arms in PVC pipes, create sleeping dragons and all kinds of things. When they do this you have to use a lot of different resources to safely remove individuals from these devices.

We can’t take a fire axe and chop that PVC pipe in half. We need to do that in a safe manner. It takes several agencies to do that. This was some of the training we have done here.

[Slide 22]

Some lessons learned from past events—I’m telling you about this with emergency management without the expectation that you are going to be out there doing this but you will be involved in threat assessment for, planning for these events, coming up with incident action plans for and pulling in resources for these events.

What are some things that have happened in the past? If you have construction sites near where these events are going to take place you’ve got to secure those. They allow people to access rocks, bricks, barrels, and dumpsters. There have been incidents where people will take barrels and fill them with water and roll them down the hill towards responders.

I can’t stress it enough—alcohol is a significant contributor to violence. So I say that to emergency management that a lot of times on your state of emergency paperwork or your declarations you have on that the banning of the sale of alcohol. This may be the one time you need to do that in your community.

If this event is going to be over in two hours you don’t need to address that. If you know there are going to be problems this is one of the things you can look at even in some type of declaration or emergency. Just like public safety agencies are planning and preparing, these protesting groups will plan and prepare.

They do training, they have safe houses, conduct surveillance of law enforcement, they will videotape everything, they have bike teams and their own medics and they use radio communication. Some of these groups are very sophisticated.

You can see the picture here—these can be a problem—these little squirt guns. They look harmless but they will put ammonia in them, or gasoline, biohazards, urine or feces, and they will spray chemicals on responders. These can lead to some problems.

[Slide 23]

Obviously Molotov cocktails can be a serious fire hazard so we need to plan for those. The protesters will throw rocks, bricks, bottles, cans, and fireworks. They will take what looks like normal items and put them together and launch these things—BBs, wrist rockets, and lug nuts.

As I said earlier the protesters can form human chains and when they do that using these protester devices or locking devices—using bike locks and PVC pipes we have to be able to safely remove them. That is joint operation with fire, EMS and law enforcement.

[Slide 24]

Some of the devices they use—drums, bicycle locks. One thing that happens at a lot of these events that you need to plan for, during these events if there are problems, they will start calling in bomb threats and suspicious package calls. That is why if you have the time you form the JHAT (Joint Hazard Assessment Team) which is made up of Hazmat and bomb squads. If you already have that formed up they can respond to address that very quickly.

The 911 centers are going to get hammered when these events happen. You have to plan for that with both related and unrelated 911 calls. A lot of these events, when you see the pepper spray and pepper balls being used you will have a large number of people who need to be decontaminated. Before they are arrested, processed or taken to the hospital, they need to be decontaminated.

[Slide 25]

Those are some of the thoughts you need to think about, just some hazards and risks that happen with these events. A couple of other issues to think about with pre-incident planning—I can’t stress it enough—incident command system, incident command system, incident command system. Setting up that unified command—whether it is a planned event that we know is coming a month before or it all of a sudden happens tonight we have to get all the agencies together and start addressing those problems.

Remember that unified command will address your communications, resources and everything like that. Obviously law enforcement will be the lead in this. Planning—number one, you need to plan now to have plans again sometimes your county multi-hazard plan may address this or you are putting together a plan for a special event—this is a multi-agency plan that needs to take place here.

It takes all the agencies to identify how we are going to communicate, who needs what resources, how we address the rest of the jurisdiction, to identify those objectives, to come up with incident action plans if you are going to do those. The planning needs to be a multi-agency plan.

There is training out there available. The Department of Homeland Security at the Center for Domestic Preparedness actually does training on this of different types including those for emergency management command staff. I attended it years ago. It is a good program.

Training and exercises are important. If you put this plan together let’s do an exercise. If you have an event coming up let’s do an exercise for that. We talked about the groups. This is one time where intelligence and information sharing can be critical. What are our threats? What are the individuals saying? What are these groups saying on the internet? Who is the problem? To the point of—there is no problem, we don’t need to worry about this and we don’t see a serious threat. That is good.

In most events—I think it is important to look at—we don’t need to activate the emergency operations center. The EOC is already a secured location with all the phone wires, infrastructure and internet and the capabilities you need for an event that is going to go on for several hours.

Obviously in speaking to the community, the media, and the social media— that can be addressed through your joint information center. Why emergency management plays an important role with these is that the EOC, JIC, mutual aid—you may need to bring in mutual aid resources. This is where emergency management and mutual aid agreements may come into effect.

State and federal support—some of these you may need state support immediately or if you are planning an event—obviously the DNC and RNC and going to have local, state and federal resources there. We need to request those resources.

Just food for thought—if you have, like Anaheim or some of these other events, you may need to do a declaration of some form or fashion to ban the sale of firearms, gasoline or alcohol for a specific area of jurisdiction just based on how you are going to do your declaration.

That may be a valuable tool but that needs to be a joint decision with all the different agencies on when we do this declaration, how it applies to us, and when it will end. Like with any other disaster we want to return the community to normal as soon as possible.

[Slide 26]

We are getting close to wrapping up the PowerPoint part of this. A little preparation goes a long way. I think communities with a lot of these events that do planning and preparation for these issues, when they happen they are handled a lot more efficiently and a lot safer. I think it is a good idea of what we are going to do when these things happen.

If we can’t do anything, who do we call to help us on that? If you have a plan in place let’s make sure it is up to date and with any multi-hazard assessment planning process—no matter if we are talking about a tsunami, volcano or tourist attack—we need to do a multi-agency exercise, the tabletop or functional, to bring all the agencies together to talk about what we are going to do.

[Slide 27]

I just threw these up. These are some command school tabletops that we have done. These are obviously a lot more cost efficient and easier to do than full scale drills and exercises. It may be a little more difficult to do full scale drills and exercises for a civil unrest event. It’s a good idea to do these whether it is a normal tabletop or a command school functional tabletops, let’s bring the agencies together and let’s go to these scenarios.

Even if you have some type of sporting event coming up, or a KKK protest, or a major trial coming up, let’s do a few hours of this type of tabletop just to kind of war game what we are going to do, what’s our battle rhythm going to be, and things like that. Obviously we are always going to use our incident command system to do that.

[Slide 28]

From emergency management perspectives two key things—the emergency operation center—it sometimes seems that the community is hesitant to use the EOC. That is what it is there for—a secured location for command, control, communications and coordination. You can activate this prior to an event, an immediate event, whether you are using your local EOC staff or you are bringing in an incident management team—that is why I put the IMT there.

If you have multiple command posts set up in your community, remember the EOC is communicating with those command posts. The EOC is there to support that response or event.

The Joint Information Center is very important because you have to communicate with the community when these types of events are unfolding.

We could do an hour on social media. I underlined that. With what I was seeing out of Anaheim, California there are literally hundreds of videos, tweets, Facebook postings coming out. I think it is important that we, too, as the communities and response agencies can counter that and put our message out about what is happening and what the community needs to do.

[Slide 29]

Wrapping this up—I started on this and I’ll end on it—you know August is not just focused on protests. I think protests are all right. They are identified in the U.S. Constitution and we have no problem. Every day in this country we have peaceful protests of assembly. That’s important and we can and we should.

Just yesterday we had a protest in our community. It was a little one. As soon as law enforcement showed up, they told them to leave and they did. It was no problem. I was kind of focused on that rare occasion when public safety becomes a concern because these events really are going to impact your entire community and things that are going on there.

[Slide 30]

I very quickly went through that. I will ask everyone to be safe and I guess I will hand it back over to you, Amy, if you guys have any questions.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much August. Very good information. We will move to our audience Q&A portion. Please keep your question or comment related to today’s topic and reasonably concise. We are also interested in hearing about any experiences you or your community has had with these types of events.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Derek White: How have you succeeded at getting law enforcement to include fire and emergency management in the pre-planning to these events? In some communities, cops can be hesitant to including EM and fire in events where they have the lead.

August Vernon: That’s a good question and we can even take civil unrest out of this and just say that can be an issue in a lot of communities. I think that comes down to each community is a lot different—the relationships and networking that you have in place. That is why they know more on the civil unrest part. If you have an incident right now and you’ve never done anything with them, when that incident happens you aren’t going to be successful trying to work with anybody.

When it comes to civil unrest events it is good to work with these agencies even if you have to reach out to them. I think what helped a lot of people was that we already had good relationship and then 9/11 happened and all those kinds of efforts—so we really got our foot in the door with law enforcement. So now I’m even involved in intelligence and information sharing efforts, threat assessments and things like that.

I think number one is building those relationships prior to. We say this all the time but it is important. I know where you’re coming from, Derek, because civil unrest is typically a law enforcement only matter. When the response happens it’s not, because it takes the whole community, but it is a law enforcement matter. It is sometimes hard to get in there.

I think just sitting down and talking about them to get their example to work on your multi-hazard plan. In our multi-hazard plan, the law enforcement annex, we brought the law enforcement agencies in to help us do that because I can’t write that. We facilitate that and let them write it and guide them through that process.

I do recognize and I know that answer is true because typically civil unrest is considered only a law enforcement event. Here we have done a good job and we have had like our Dixie Classic Fair which has several hundred thousands of people coming a week. We have become involved with all the agencies in pre-planning that—doing an incident action plan for that.

We’ve done our big air show which gets 100,000 people. We’ve been involved in that. I think you take any opportunity you can to help do that and you have to show what emergency management can help do. We can get in there to help you. Here’s what we can offer. But I know that can sometimes be an issue. I don’t have the 100 percent answer because every community is different and I hear that a lot.

Amy Sebring: Aren’t the exercises you mentioned an opportunity to do that?

August Vernon: Certainly—the tabletops or any type.

John Bowman: What are best practices for engaging the private sector in planning & response?

August Vernon: Obviously the first thing you need to look at is—we’ll start with critical infrastructure. I’ll use us as an example, not to say we are the best ever but just things I’m familiar with that we do that are successful—we have our local emergency planning committee. We have our power companies, natural gas companies, our big employers, and hospitals involved in that local emergency planning committee.

After 9/11 we put together a domestic preparedness task force of all the agencies to make decisions on homeland security efforts and funding and grants. We put a representative from private industry on that task force so they have a voice into that.

We also in our emergency operation center have a table for private industry. We are trying to engage consistently with critical infrastructure. In the past two weeks we have had severe weather come through the area so we are in communication with critical infrastructure anyway.

I will say that during civil unrest events that some of these groups are going to target critical infrastructure so it would behoove them (I’ll try to use big words) to get onboard with this and you may need to reach out to them. If they are going to be in the impacted area or they may be targets you need to get them onboard and see what they are doing.

They may already be planning but we want to get them on the same sheet of music. For some reason Starbucks—if you have a Starbucks talk to them— if there is something going on in that area they are going to get targeted. In Anaheim, they were targeted. I’m just saying that law enforcement engaging the private sector is a never ending process.

Something we do, and not to spend a lot of time on this, we will go in and do a tabletop for the private sector, especially larger businesses, industries and corporations. We will go in and do three or four hour tabletops of what they consider a worst case scenario and run them through the process and help them out and build those relationships.

Chris Saeger: How do you involve community agencies, who may be advocates for communities often affected by civil unrest, in preparing?

Amy Sebring: I think Chris is kind of referring to the "whole community" approach, community outreach, coordination with non-governmental organizations or community based organizations, perhaps representative of racial minorities or maybe even faith based. Just trying to get those folks involved.

August Vernon: We are addressing this now through the VOAD and the COAD. We have recently been working with some of the groups we are normally are not involved in—faith based groups, community organization groups that normally in public safety we are not dealing with. Through the COAD or VOAD organizations you can build those groups up so I think that has been a window for us to reach out to these groups. If your community is impacted by this it is going to be a part of that communications, that joint information center, and getting that information out to the social media and to the community.

I was looking at the Anaheim incident and Dallas incident. Those are neighborhood based and racially motivated issues with impacts there. So I think you really quickly have to get those individuals involved to let them know. Here is what we are doing. There are no secrets. What can you offer? What can you bring to the table? We recognize that volunteer organizations and community organizations can help us in disasters and crisis situations.

I hate to use the word "disaster" because a community can go 40 years and never have a disaster but you can have all kinds of high impact incidents. Both in disaster and crisis they can help. For us recently it has been the VOAD effort that has helped us reach out toward organizations we would not normally communicate with.

Amy Sebring: Again, it is building those relationships before something happens, right?

August Vernon: Yes, the moment a riot breaks out is probably not the best time to start sharing information with these groups.

John Calhoun: Have you seen resistance to including EMS responders in the planning process? My experience is that they often become targets/victims during civil unrest.

August Vernon: That is why it is very important that you do some pre-planning because yes, fire trucks and ambulances also can be targeted. If we don’t have an organized response to this, that is where they are going to be unescorted and trying to go into these situations. If you are planning an event you need to plan for that.

Obviously we are going to have fires and medical calls. They do not stop. They increase. If you can provide law enforcement escorts for those agencies you will be able to address that. If we have the incident unfold with four different command posts and no one is communicating you will see people get injured and problems will take place.

If we have a plan in place and have a unified command and before I dispatch an ambulance or fire truck and I say we need three patrol vehicles to go with it, I think you can address all that. Our biggest issue—communications will address that. Training, exercises and pre-planning will address that issue of leaving EMS and fire out to hang.

That happens—all the way back to the L.A. riots. Most of the responders that were injured were fire and EMS. The firefighter was shot from the Los Angeles Fire Department. Pre-planning, training, exercises and working together with a unified command can address that.

Amy Sebring: Speaking of exercises, August do you know of any good sources for exercise scenarios?

August Vernon: The Center for Domestic Preparedness does several classes—some for law enforcement and some for protester tactics and one for command staff. I’ll put a plug in for the Center for Domestic Preparedness. It is a three day program or it was when we did it. There is a big exercise part of that.

What I would also encourage—I will be glad if someone wants information on doing a realistic—but we don’t want to go overboard with these exercises because you lose interest and credibility—but take a realistic scenario.

The best way to do that is to take what is going on in Anaheim, California right now and put that incident in your community. Set up that scenario. That is what I normally do. Take realistic scenarios that have occurred in like communities to yours and your jurisdiction—whether it is 10,000 or 10,000,000 or whatever—take realistic scenarios and take those locations and put them in your community.

How would we respond to this? What would we do? What resources do we have? Go through that situation and bring those agencies together to do that. If someone has specific questions I’ll be glad to share some lessons learned there to help people do that.

Amy Sebring: I did want to mention those links we have on our background page. One is one to the Center for Domestic Preparedness and another one that you have done I believe.

At this time I would like to invite people, while we have August, to expand the topic to the mass shootings, which was the program you did for us a year and a half ago. I would recommend that one very much to any of our participants. It is linked from our background page. So if you have additional questions related to mass shootings, not the politics of such things, but emergency management aspects of those types of events we will take those questions as well.

Amy Sebring: Would you like to comment on the most recent shooting in Colorado?

August Vernon: I’m hesitant to say a lot about it. Whatever you are seeing on the media or is being tweeted out isn’t always accurate. Most of these shootings only take four to eight minutes. What that time frame usually is, is the response time for law enforcement. I know on this timeline in Colorado this incident was over in just several minutes, in three to four minutes and law enforcement was on the scene.

They did a really good response there. I know from what I’ve heard so far the scene was—what you always hear with these incidents—very chaotic, victims running around, chaos, the individual used a gas of some kind—not really sure what that was yet—kind of a worst case scenario, fatalities, trauma codes, victims running around, people fleeing the site, victims found two blocks away.

But if you listen to the communications tapes so far they had a really good response, a lot of resources coming in very quickly. You hear them using terms like "command" and "divisions". You listen to the fire command—they were setting up divisions, staging resources, calling in mutual aid. They had plenty of resources.

Even with the amount of resources it was obviously overwhelming. This individual, the shooter, obviously had his apartment which really was that diversion, that secondary attack or device going on. They really had two different incidents unfolding in one community which is really draining on your resources.

I think that they are basically still responding to that incident. It is going to take some time to recover from that. I’ve had a lot of questions coming in and even some phone interview to talk about the shooter. I’m hesitant to do that so far. We really don’t know his history, intent or what was going on there. Obviously the only thing I can say for sure is that guy put a lot of thought and planning into that.

On a personal note, that night in North Carolina I was home in bed but my youngest son who is thirteen went with some of his friends and other dads to a midnight showing of Batman. That is kind of a scary thought to show that they can happen anywhere.

Before I did this seminar I was over at Western Salem State University, one of our colleges, doing a presentation and I reminded them that the individual involved in the Colorado shooting spent weeks and months at a college campus doing who-knows-what at this point. This guy’s kind of floated around. On this incident we still need to wait and see what is going to come out on that.

Amy Sebring: Every once in a while when you do see a good response it is like yes, all the planning and training and exercising pays off.

Jim Sells: We commonly include our public safety agencies, in planning for civil unrest. Do you agree that legal counsel is not only important in the planning but in the management of the incident?

August Vernon: Yes, I would definitely say at some point, especially on this topic you will need some type of legal guidance or discussion there because of things like the mass arrests that are taking place. You may be doing those declarations. When you start banning the sale of alcohol, gasoline and firearms, you start doing curfews and those types of issues, you are going to need legal guidance and counsel.

I think that is important. Are they honestly as legal counsel come and go through five hours of exercises with you? Maybe not, probably not, I don’t know—but at some point, especially if you have an incident occurring or you have an event that is coming up and you think this could be an issue I would definitely get them involved in this conversation and see what they think about that.

Amy Sebring: If you are planning on doing some kind of template for declaration for this type of incident, that is when you can involve them, right?

August Vernon: Yes. Anytime you are doing declarations. On declarations, every block does not need to be filled out for every declaration. You select what you need. With a civil unrest event, because there are going to be use of force issues, there is going to be mass arrests, all kinds of things—they would need to be part of that.

What we would call part of the executive or policy group in the EOC, they would need to be a part of that discussion.

Isabel McCurdy: What communication should be in place with the crowd during a planned event that turns into civil unrest?

August Vernon: That is a tough one. With a crowd or audience of people somewhere, it depends on the venue—a sporting event or concert. Hopefully there is some type of means but you may not always have means of communicating with these individuals. Once it becomes a law enforcement matter legally they have to make notification to that audience or crowd that they need to disperse.

Legally law enforcement needs to do that before the put hands on people or before they start trying to move people. All the way to going to Mardi Gras, before they start moving that crowd or clearing the streets they make that announcement via PAs that you need to move and things that need to happen. It may be difficult in these events to communicate with that large of a crowd especially one that is hostile, running and moving around.

I do know that law enforcement before they do anything in these events will start making announcements to that crowd what needs to happen.

Amy Sebring: Back on the EMS, frequently with planned events they will have medical stations set up around. Should planning include the ability to do that for these unplanned events?

August Vernon: On a planned event you are going to have your first aid stations and EMS units there that are staged. You need to plan what you are going to do to provide health and medical care to people in a riot but that may depend on the situation.

Maybe a small event—for us in a small event, EMS has tactical medics. Tactical medics train with law enforcement agencies on what care they are going to provide to both. My priority is the responders. How do we take care of responders, law enforcement, bystanders and people in the crowd, and people who have been arrested?

That may become fluid once that event unfolds. That can be a small thing with two medics all the way up to needing a strike team of 50 ambulances, excuse my span of control, or five to seven ambulances per team. You are going to need to get the hospitals involved in this because if it unfolds and you start bringing people to the hospital, you are expanding the problem into the hospital.

That will have to be discussed and will become fluid during a response. You need to think about it in advance. The moment it happens is not the time to start trying to figure it out.


Amy Sebring: We will go ahead and wrap it up for today. August, on behalf of Avagene, myself, and all our participants, we thank you very much for coming and for sharing this information with us. I think we will see even more of these as the year progresses.

August Vernon: Thank you for the opportunity to be here. If people have questions they can funnel those to me.

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Thanks to everyone for participating today. Have a great afternoon everyone. We are adjourned.