Local government managers who have experienced mass shootings in their communities have accumulated valuable experiences that can help other managers prepare for similar emergencies, says Ron Carlee, ICMA’s chief operating officer, who on April 1, 2013, begins service as city manager of Charlotte, North Carolina, and author of PM’s April cover story, “Gun Violence: Management Steps to Take Now.” He outlines these 10 strategies that emerged from interviews and reports from the communities:
- Stay involved. Managers walk a line between disengagement and micromanagement, but at all stages—emergency preparedness, response, and recovery—the chief executive needs to be visible and engaged.
- Plan and train. The Columbine High School murders in 1999 changed everything, showing how lessons can be learned and put into place. Active shooter plans are now commonplace and direct first responders to encounter and neutralize the shooter as the immediate priority.
- Activate the plan. The actual incident, however, will not match the plan and the scenario training. Having a strong foundation enables responders to improvise based on the uniqueness of the situation. Expect the unexpected; be prepared to be surprised.
- Take care of the victims and their loved ones. This is one of the most critical and most challenging tasks. Once the scene is secured and people are out of danger, a new phase of difficult and emotional work begins.
- Take care of your people, yourself, and the community. It may seem strange that the community is listed last in this heading; however, if first responders and other officials, including the manager, are emotionally impaired, they cannot take care of others.
- Manage the media and other outsiders. The number of media outlets is overwhelming and their reach is global. Media transmit 24/7, with an insatiable appetite. Have a media management plan in place, including contingency resources from outside the organization.
- Facilitate an ad hoc memorial and appropriate events. People are compelled to demonstrate their sadness and hurt. Help make a memorial happen. Find a place for it and protect it. At an appropriate time, retire it and preserve the artifacts as appropriate.
- Manage donations and volunteers. Beyond the ad hoc memorial, a number of people will want to help, often with money, which needs a depository and a trustworthy administrator to oversee it. People will also want to make donations of goods and services, whether these are needed or not.
- Plan a permanent memorial. Involve the families of victims and others intimately connected to the event.
- Move on. In the immediate term, practical issues need managers’ attention. Trash still needs to be collected, water mains have to be repaired, and responses must be made to routine 911 calls. There is a compelling need to return to normalcy or as close as one can get in the community.