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Ep 50: Implementing the ASIM Process

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Контент предоставлен C3 Pathways. Весь контент подкастов, включая эпизоды, графику и описания подкастов, загружается и предоставляется непосредственно компанией C3 Pathways или ее партнером по платформе подкастов. Если вы считаете, что кто-то использует вашу работу, защищенную авторским правом, без вашего разрешения, вы можете выполнить процедуру, описанную здесь https://ru.player.fm/legal.

Ep 50: Implementing the ASIM Process

Sheriff Michelle Cook and Police Chief Terry Nichols share their experiences implementing the Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist process and their tips for success. Don't miss this discussion!

Bill Godfrey:

Welcome to the Active Shooter Incident Management Podcast. It's good to be back with you today. My name is Bill Godfrey. I'm your podcast host, and I have with me today two former C3 instructors as our guest stars today, both of them law enforcement leaders, and hoping that one day when they do retire-retire, we might actually get them back as C3 instructors; hint hint, Chief Nichols, who just retired in the last few weeks. So I have with me Michelle Cook. She is currently serving as the Sheriff in Clay County. She also did ... Michelle was almost 30 years at Jacksonville?

Michelle Cook:

26 years at Jacksonville, yeah.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, so 26 years at Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Police Department as the operations chief, so she had an awful lot of responsibility there. Did a short stint as the Police Chief at Atlantic Beach, which was kind of a retirement job, but too easy for you. You needed something with more, and so now she's the elected Sheriff at Clay County, which is in north Florida. And we have with us Terry Nichols. Terry was the Assistant Director at Alert from the founding to, what was it? 2018, 20-

Terry Nichols:

2016, 2016.

Bill Godfrey:

2016. Left Alert, became the Police Chief in Brownwood, Texas, and then you did, what, a little over three years there?

Terry Nichols:

Three years there, and then moved to Seguin as chief, and spent three years there, and now I'm retired

Bill Godfrey:

Like a week and a half ago, two weeks ago? It's been pretty recent.

Terry Nichols:

It's been a month, it's been a month.

Bill Godfrey:

So it's exciting to have both of you here. I really appreciate you taking the time. I know the sheriff especially, you have a very busy schedule. But I wanted to have a podcast where we talk about implementing the Active Shooter Incident Management checklist and the process that goes with it. Because it sounds simple on the surface, and when you've gone through training, it's fairly straightforward, but trying to roll that out to a whole organization is a little bit of a logistics machine.

And the two of you have each done this, not only in your organizations, but you've done it more than once. So sheriff, you did it at Jacksonville, then did it at Atlantic Beach, now at Clay County, and Terry, you did it at both Brownwood and Seguin. So what I wanted to just get from you guys is, what was it about this process that made you say, "This is the way I want to go," and what were your lessons learned? How did you approach it and go along the way? So sheriff, you want to start us off?

Michelle Cook:

Sure. First of all, thank you for having me today to talk about this. I'm very passionate about this. You've asked why ASIM, why choose this method of managing an active shooter event, and I will tell you, I'm entering into my 30th year of law enforcement, and I've worked some huge cases, some huge incidents, thousands of them, and for me, being a street cop for so long and then the leader of street cops, the ASIM process, the ASIM methodology, it just makes sense.

In our industry, and Terry, correct me if you see differently, we teach young officers, young supervisors, to handle everything themselves. And on 99% of the calls that we handle, that can be done, but on a mass critical incident, like an active shooter event, relying on one person to handle everything is just unrealistic, and that's how things get missed, and unfortunately, that's how people die, is you got one person trying to handle everything.

Terry Nichols:

Yeah. For me, everything the sheriff said makes perfect sense, and she is spot on. Having been involved with Alert and standing it up from the get go, driving it post-Columbine, and how we were training cops, and then fast-forward several years and get introduced to the ASIM model, and realizing we had been missing the boat early on. When we started first training our officers, we were missing the management piece of this. We were doing good at going in and realizing that we have a different duty. There's no longer sit and wait for SWAT, that we had a different mission on these active shooter events.

But there's a whole management piece of this, and like the sheriff alluded to, that we're real good at teaching cops to go handle a problem by themselves, and they do it 9 times out of 10, but these events are catastrophic. They are geographical in nature. It doesn't just happen in a vacuum in one little place, and it takes significant resource management being trained to do that, and that the ASIM, I was just pulled to it and said it makes all the sense in the world.

Bill Godfrey:

Well, it's very humbling to hear that, and I'm thrilled that you guys ... I was thrilled to have both of you as instructors and as founding members, if you will, of what we were doing a very, very long time ago. Terry, when you were at Alert, you had a hand in helping us get the pilot up and running, and Michelle attended one of the very first pilots. Wait, in fact, I think it was the very first pilot delivery we did for certification, when we did it at Seminole County, so you guys have certainly been on the road with us for a long time. Terry, what was your strategy? So Brownwood, you might want to ... Brownwood was a little more rural, Seguin's a little more suburban. What was your strategy when you wanted to implement it the first time around, and then how did that change for you the second time around?

Terry Nichols:

I want to back up to something that you said on the intro too, if I can remember what it was now, that it's not just an agency that we implemented these in, it was a geographical area. So it was multiple agencies.

Bill Godfrey:

Good point.

Terry Nichols:

Yeah, I may have been the Chief of Brownwood, but I had the Sheriff's Department, and I had two of the law enforcement agencies right there in the county as well, and it was very rural. If you look at Brownwood, Texas on a map, it is in the geographical center of Texas, and I tell people, "You go out to nowhere and turn left, and you're in Brownwood," and not a lot of resources out there.

Our closest big city is Abilene, Texas, and that's an hour away. But I knew, A, the need when I got there. I saw the quick needs assessment that we had no active shooter training. We had nothing. We had zero partnership with our fire and EMS partners, we had a third-party EMS provider, we were not working with our Sheriff's Department who was in the same building as us, so a lot of basic leadership stuff.

And it was fun to bring the ASIM stuff to us, and we did it through Counterstrike first. That's how we introduced it to the organization, but we brought in the Sheriff's Department and other law enforcement agencies in the county. And that brought us all together, where they weren't playing in the sandbox prior to me getting there for multiple reasons, but this was something we could all gather around and actually embrace.

And that really helped build relationships and, "Hey, we're not that bad. Hey, the people across the hall, hey, they're not that bad. They wear a brown uniform, we wear a blue uniform." So but it's also a rule. What we had is what we had, and help was a long way away. So we introduced it through Counterstrike, and then we did ASIM and the checklist, and we recurred training on it, and it was a success.

Bill Godfrey:

Sheriff, your first implementation was at Jacksonville, which, contrasting to Brownwood, is about as big as ... it's a big job. What was your strategy there? I know you had to play the long game. It took a while, but talk a little bit about what you did at Jacksonville.

Michelle Cook:

Sure. So in Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office actually, at the time, was the 25th largest agency in the country, so a large agency. And what we decided to do is offer the ASIM class to those who wanted it first, because we thought if we could get those folks who are interested in it to buy into it, then they could go out and help sell it to the rest of the agency. And that really, for us, worked out good, because we ended up with ASIM disciples, is what I call them, and those are folks who were all in, who, on the street, if somebody had a question, they could speak to what ASIM was, and the benefits of it, and stuff like that.

So it took us several years. We had to get through about 1,400 people trained, so it took us several years, several training cycles, to get everybody through. Contrast that to ... Let me go back. In Jacksonville, we also had a really close relationship with the fire department, and so they were in on the training from the beginning with us, and that was very, very beneficial.

In fact, I think it was in Jacksonville, we started using rescue task forces at special events, and that was a chance for us to practice a concept with our police and fire working together on all of our pre-planned special events, so when the the day did come that we had an active shooter, we would be prepared to ... and we wouldn't have to stop and explain to people what a rescue task force was, so that worked out really well.

And we had the active shooter incident at The Landing, and we got fortunate that day because there was actually a fire department unit training a block away. But if you go back and you listen to the radio broadcast, and you listen, and you read the after-action reports, it was very clear that not only the active shooter tactical training that we had been practicing and training so hard for worked, but also, the Active Shooter Incident Management portion of that trained, and people fell right into place.

And so it was really ... I had just left when that happened, but it was very gratifying to see all that hard work going into saving people's lives. So move forward to Atlantic Beach, again, much like Terry, a very small agency. We had 30 people total, including myself, and for me, I incorporated not only some of the fire department folks again in this, but public works. Our public works folks had a big presence out there in the city of Atlanta Beach, and so they were pulled into some of the safer jobs, and we trained with public works on these things, and safety...

Bill Godfrey:

Okay, well, we're not going to let you get away with that that easy. You're going to have to tell a little bit about what you did, and why, and how it worked out.

Michelle Cook:

So what we did is we got the public works guys because ... specifically the school, but other locations as well, we had ... Atlantic Beach is a beach town, so there's lots of roads leading in, and one of the concerns we had is that when something happened, that traffic would be backed up and blocked so bad that we would not be able to get mutual aid or fire rescue into the scene.

So we train the public works guys on how to use their big trucks to hold traffic positions until relieved by a law enforcement officer, and again, they were instrumental and vital to our plan out there, and talking about building relationships and everybody being on the same page. So that worked out really good. Small agency, limited resources. We-

Bill Godfrey:

Did you get any pushback from the public works guys and gals, or were they pretty excited about it?

Michelle Cook:

Oh, they were having a blast. We also incorporated them, just on a side note, in our search for missing people. As soon as we had a missing person call go out in the city of Atlantic Beach, our publics works people would getting notified on their phones that we were looking for missing persons, and so they would also help us look for missing people. So it was really just, you go back to, if you have limited resources, if you're in a jurisdiction then you have limited resources, there are other groups that you can pull in safely to help augment or supplement your agency.

Bill Godfrey:

Sure, sure.

Michelle Cook:

Yeah, so that...

Bill Godfrey:

So how did your approach ... Other than the public works, what was the big glaring differences for you implementing it at Atlantic Beach, versus implementing ASIM at the Atlantic Beach versus Jacksonville?

Michelle Cook:

You know, Jacksonville, there was always the potential for over-convergence just from get go, just because of the sheer number of resources in Duval County. In Atlantic Beach, it was the exact opposite. How long do we have to wait until help gets here, and then how do you manage so much mutual aid? Because in Atlantic Beach, we would have Neptune Beach, Jacks Beach, Jacksonville, Mayport police, all potentially responding, all with different communication, radio channels.

And so we had to make sure that when we developed our plan in Atlantic Beach, that all those surrounding agencies knew what our plan was, so that if and when something did happen, they would know what radio frequency to go to. Where would staging be? We preset all those ahead of time so that would be no question day of, and that's the value of a smaller jurisdiction, is you can do a lot of that ahead of time.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, you really regionalized your approach, which Terry mentioned even at Brownwood and bringing some of the others in. Terry, when you went over to Seguin, what did you do a little bit differently there at that one? And talk a little bit about how you stepped outside of the city to bring in your regional partners, similar to what Michelle was just talking about.

Terry Nichols:

Yeah, pretty much the same thing. The good news is we had a great relationship with the fire department there. It's a larger organization. I say larger. We had 60 sworn at the time, but we're a lot closer ... San Antonio's, a rock throw away, Austin's an hour away, San Marcos is close. So we have a lot of resources, and in the Braunfels real close to us if we need them.

One thing that this community had lived through was Sutherland Springs. We had first responders ... Sutherland Springs was literally 15 miles, 20 miles, from Seguin, so we had first responders that actually went down there that day. So it was very close to Seguin, meaning and close to their heart. They did not have ASIM, though. They did not have any training. Most of them had been through Alert or some level of tactical training. The tactical piece of it, the sheriff mentioned, but nobody had the management piece.

So I took what I did in Brownwood, and we invested in the Counterstrike and they ran everybody through Counterstrike first. Then we brought in an ASIM advance class, and that's when we really got the buy-in. There were already a group going on countywide, they met monthly. An integrated response group, it was run by the county Fire Marshal's Office, and they would meet monthly, and they would meet, and they would sit around and talk about the same thing over and over and over. And then I became chief there, and they all look at me like, "Oh my God, look what just walked in the door. We've got somebody that"-

Bill Godfrey:

Fresh meat.

Terry Nichols:

"That knows what they're doing, that'll come rescue us." So we started getting some synergy going there with that, and then the ASIM advanced that we hosted not long before I left, we were lucky enough to get really solidified, because we filled that class. It was great to see so many people.

And I got a text on July 4th from the assistant fire chief saying that, "We have a huge parade July 4th in Seguin," and that's largest one in Texas. But, just what the sheriff mentioned, they had rescue task forces stood up, an IEP, the whole thing that ... I'd been walking them through, doing this slowly, baby steps, but they had done it for the parade, and he was so proud of himself, and I'm so proud of them.

He said, "Look at your legacy, what you've left behind." I was like, I didn't do anything. I just came and got the ball rolling. You guys now go with it. But it's come time for both places to test, and that I think that, we'll talk about some challenges in a minute, but it's come time to start to test it. Don't wait for game day. We need to start testing these things.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, and it's funny, both of you have talked about opportunities to exercise and practice, I shouldn't use the word exercise, but to practice some of these concepts in your special events and pre-planned events, and I know that that's a huge part of socialization and absolutely a best practice.

And before I move on, I do want to comment for the audience, if you're wondering why these two both had ASIM advances, they were both leaders who contacted us and said, "If you ever have a last-minute cancellation, all I need is two weeks notice and I can make it work," and that's how both of them got ASIM classes. They picked up cancellation slots that came in from others on short notice.

But sheriff, I know that you started off by doing the RTFs, and the idea of contact teams in your IEPs for special events, and for the football games, and things like that in Jacksonville, but not too long after that, you took that a step further, certainly at clay county, I know you've began incorporating some of these practices into other calls not active shooter. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Michelle Cook:

Sure. So it actually ... the guys in Atlantic Beach started it, and it's carried forward to Clay County, and I really think this is going to end up being a best practice. And so what we've done is, on priority-one calls, where we have an active scene that's dynamic and fluid, whoever is tactical declares tactical, and they have command of the hot zone.

So whether it's a burglary in progress to a store, or a fire at a house, or a gas leak, the person that's going to drive the resources to specific tasks based on an overall strategy declares tactical, and then our incident commander goes down the road and declares command, and then supports tactical.

And this is really ... like I said, this happened organically in both agencies, but I think it's going to end up being a best practice for us, is this allows the men and women in uniform to use the terminology, use the concepts, and it won't be foreign to them, God forbid, if something ever happened. So they're using it on priority-one calls now.

Bill Godfrey:

I think that's fabulous, and the history of the fire service, and I know we all like to make fun, the fire department will set up incident command on a barking dog call. And yeah, true, but that's actually how we got everybody to understand it. When the ICS structure first started coming out in the late 70s and then rolled into the 80s, and people started stepping up and taking notice, the way we got it indoctrinated culturally was we used it on everything.

Overkill? Yeah. Was it necessary? Probably not, but did it expedite the cultural integration and locking that in? And it really did. And I know we've had some conversations about the idea of morphing the Active Shooter Incident Management checklist process into something that's a little more generic, like a generic response posture to violent events or potentially-violent events, and I wonder if you could comment on that?

So on the fire service, we have alarm levels. So what we send to a residential structure fire is different than what we send to a commercial structure fire, and when we escalate that and call for more resources, and so that's that standard package. And it seems to me like there might be a real good argument and a logical application for something like that, a standard response protocol for hostile events or potentially-violent events on law enforcement. What are the two of you think about that?

Terry Nichols:

You know, I can agree. I think that's a great best practice, sheriff, and I commend you for it. I think Seguin, we could have certainly done that in Seguin, and hopefully a little more naturally; like you said, organically. What I think we saw that the cops have been missing, the officers have been missing, is the actual practical application of ICS. Everybody's done the 100, the 200, 300, all of the classes, and we all...

Bill Godfrey:

Nobody shared answers.

Terry Nichols:

Yeah, they never share answers, but they never seen the practical application of it, and that's what ASIM brings you, or that's what the Counterstrike tool brings them, is a practical application? "Okay, I see how this is supposed to work now," but you've got to go out and now practice it, and if you can incorporate it into your priority-one-type calls or something like that, I think that's brilliant to be able to do something like that, because it just further ingrains that it should be second nature. when the big one, when that day happens, it's already ingrained in the organizational culture.

Bill Godfrey:

Good point. Sheriff, what are your thoughts?

Michelle Cook:

You know, I would agree. The challenge we have in law enforcement is ... because every call that we go on is so different, and to broad brush, saying, "Okay, all of these types of calls, you have to do this," it can be a double-edged sword. So I liked the fact that, at least in my agencies, it happened organically, and when the troops buy in, then you don't have to ram it down their throat; it's better all the way around.

But I would love to see some sort of standardization, maybe at each state level, and using the lingo of each state to implement a standard hostile encounter response, or priority-one response, or whatever you want to call it. The challenge for us is, a priority-one call can be somebody shot, to a burglary in progress, to a car crash, to ... So I like it. I'm just not quite sure on how to execute it yet.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, I think it's one of those ideas that we ... Let's face it. Both of our industries are not necessarily known for changing quickly. In the fire service, and you guys have heard me say this before, we have a saying, "200 years of tradition unimpeded by progress," and we mean that. But I think this is one of those places where it's an idea, but we need to take time. I think we need to see what begins to develop organically, what works. Where's the stickiness in an organization? What types of incidents or responses does it make sense, and where doesn't it make sense?

think we just have to take our time with it, but it's an interesting idea that I want to keep talking about as we move forward. So let me ask both of you this. What, if anything, when you were implementing the ASIM process at any of either of your agencies, what caught you by surprise, or were some lessons learned, or advice that you would give to other law enforcement leaders like yourself, who are wanting to go down this path? Sheriff, you want to start?

Michelle Cook:

Sure. My advice would be find ASIM disciples first. Let them buy in and help sell it, versus forcing everybody to go to classes right off the bat. Understand that ASIM is a perishable skill, so if you're not using it on the street for your priority-one calls, you have to find other ways to continue the dialogue.

And that can include using some of the concepts on pre-planned events. For us, it includes ... we have written out manuscripts, responses, for some of our larger churches and mall, and our personnel read them. And we got this idea from, actually, the Blue Angels, and before every flight, they sit down and they verbally talk about what they're going to do during flight. And so we sit down and we verbally articulate, "If my role is tactical, this is what I'm doing. If I'm a contact team, this is what I'm doing," and that seems to keep the skills fresh.

We've also put together some PowerPoints where we have little pieces moving, kind of like the Counterstrike board moving, and then we have people talking about what's happening; again, pushing the concepts out. So my advice would be find ASIM disciples, then push it out to everybody, and then find creative ways to keep the conversation going regularly. And before we get off this podcast, Bill, I want to talk about something exciting that's happening in Clay County right now as we speak, so don't let me forget that.

Bill Godfrey:

Okay, I'm going to make myself a note. Terry, how about you? What were the surprises or lessons learned or advice that you would offer something to another law enforcement leader?

Terry Nichols:

In Brownwood, I walked into, I mentioned earlier, a, I won't say adversarial community, but everybody wasn't getting along, and I used it as a tool to bring everybody together. So I thought it was very useful that way. Now see, the fire department, they got along, but they didn't work together. They knew each other, but they didn't get ... that was it. They was the fireman, we're the police officers. But I used it as a unique tool to bring everybody together, and I thought that was unique.

I agree with the disciples, or ambassadors, as I often refer to them, as somebody that will go out there and carry that brand. They're passionate about it. They're just passionate as I am, as you are, as the sheriff is, and so many other folks around. Our new ... Our. The city's new assistant fire chief is one of those ambassadors. He was a hire about eight months before I left, and he came from a neighboring agency, and he is an absolute ambassador.

He told me at my retirement reception, he's like, "You're part of the reason I came over here, and now you're leaving." He's relating, "I'm passionate about this Active Shooter Incident Management stuff, and you were here, and I was like, 'All right, what a great opportunity.'" I said, "Sorry, dude, it's that time. 33 years is enough time."

And I have to agree with you, we did not have the practice at either organization down, like the sheriff explained. We did not have that ongoing, and I learned that the hard way in Brownwood. When we get to that story, I'll tell you that later on, that it is a perishable skill, and you've got to figure out some ways, some unique ways, to continue to get the information out and rehearse, refresh, that going on. And with the events in Texas in the past couple months, I don't think that's going to be hard to do to get that refresher stuff going.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, do you want to go ahead and talk about what you learned in Brownwood about the retention in perishable skills?

Terry Nichols:

Yeah, so we ran Counterstrike. We did not have the ASIM yet, but we ran Counterstrike. Everybody through the Sheriff's Department, third-party ambulance provider, the hospital, staff attended, everybody. And then a month later, we held an exercise at the school. No SIMS, nothing like that, it was all moulage. We had actually role-players, Moulage, and the hospital was involved.

So we did transports, they tested their MCI surge capability. It worked great, and I think our out-the-door time for the first patient was like 20 minutes. It was remarkable. For having only done it, and we had just trained the month before, so it was great, the sad part, we had lost an officer the week before that to an off-duty traffic collision, and I almost canceled the event simply because of that. We had a lot of trauma we were going through as an organization. We didn't, I'm glad we didn't, because it really brought us all back together focused on our mission.

The next year, my intentions are always great, but you're not judged by your intention. My intention was to do followup training the following year, that spring, and do another exercise at the school, change it up slightly, and get the hospital, everybody, involved. We never got around to the refresher training. This happened, the world happened, everything happened, but we still did the exercise. My fire chief had pretty much checked out mentally. He just wasn't that engaged. Our out-of-the-building time for our first casualty was like 50 minutes. It was 50 minutes.

Bill Godfrey:

50? Five zero?

Terry Nichols:

Yeah, five zero, which, to me, was absolute failure, catastrophic failure. It's like, what happened? And it was a lack of recurring training, is what boils down to. People had forgotten their roles, they'd forgotten ... they had the checklist, they had in front of them, but they'd forgotten how to do the basic fundamental things, the basic fundamental piece of this.

So the good lesson learned, keeping that buy-in from those ambassadors, especially the agency heads, I would think that I could sit across from my fire chief, and I could in Seguin, and have a very candid conversation. It was not quite that same way in Brownwood, as it turned out to be. That was part of the issue I faced.

The other issue is my own, I had to own it, that I did not continue to push the training. Life happened, other things happened, and I did not make it a top priority as it should have been, and we saw the outcome of that during that exercise, and I was just as mad as a hornet. I was just absolutely furious at myself, not at the performance of my troops, because they did the best they could. It was at me for not doing that refresher training.

Bill Godfrey:

Powerful story. Sheriff, anything that you want to add on that before I come back to what's going on there at Clay County?

Michelle Cook:

I'm with Terry. This is a perishable skill all day long, and you've got to find creative ways to continue the conversations. To think that you're going to bring in a class one time, and somehow people are going to retain it, that's just not going to work. You got to continue the conversations, whether it's the Counterstrike board. For us, it's reading scripts and PowerPoints, and handling priority-one calls using ASIM concepts. Also, the preplanned events, using as many concepts as we can during the preplanned event, and that's how you keep the conversations fresh.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, I completely agree. So tell us a little bit about what's going on there at Clay that you're excited about.

Michelle Cook:

So really thrilled about this. We were actually having these conversations before Uvalde, and Uvalde really just cemented our commitment to them. So in Clay County, like all school districts across America, our school board came up with a reunification plan, which sounded great on paper. It looks fantastic in this big ring binder that nobody's ever going to look at. So I brought in the county emergency manager, the safety director for the school board, and the school board police chief, and said, "Guys, we have our plan, you have your plan, the schools have their plan. None of us know each other's plan."

So right now, what we're doing is we're hosting, I think we're up to 51 meetings. We're bringing school administrators in; the superintendent; fire rescue; the police agency if it's in a municipality, and we bring that jurisdiction in; the school resource officers; the school board police; the safety director for the school board; my patrol division; my special events division, and my traffic division. And we'll have anywhere from 20 to 30 people in the room, and we put the school up on the board and we say, "Okay, this is Clay High School. All right, so school administrators, what is your lockdown ... what is your policy?"

So they tell us what their policy is, and then we talk about what to expect from us. "You're going to have solo officer response. You may see something called a contact team. What do you ... We've made an agreement on where we're going to keep extra weapons and other items locked in the school, so where is that location? How do we turn off your alarms in your school?" And then we challenge our traffic guys, "What intersections do you have to own to lock this school down?"

And then to the school people, "How are we going to ... Let's talk about reunification. What does that look like?" And then we tell them, "Hey, this is what our contact teams are going to be doing. This is what our rescue task forces are going to be doing. There's a position called tactical, and if you can find that person safely and provide information on who the suspect is, where they're at, go find that person. This is what's going to be happening at the command post."

So we tell them all of that, and really, what we've done is we've taken the individual school plans, we've taken the school board police response plan, we've taken the fire response plan, we've taken our plan. We've really molded it into a document, and since I've been driving the conversations from the beginning, they're very ASIM-centric. And the documents are just a few pages, and I could literally ...

We've identified, for example, all the intersections in the area that we need to control. "I'm not telling you on game day which direction to push traffic, but these are the intersections that we have to control." So we have a single sheet of paper, it lists each intersection, and then how many deputies it takes to control that intersection. So if Terry's coming in for mutual aid, and I can pull off this sheet of paper and hand it to Terry and say, "You've got traffic."

So we've done this with our schools. We're about 12 or so schools in now that we've been holding these meetings, and I tell you, the sense of cooperation, coordination, the understanding of ASIM, because we tell them, "You guys locking down and us neutralizing the bad guy is really just the beginning. There's going to be so much more that has to happen," and opening their eyes of what to expect from us, what we can expect from them, and we're calling it the Clay County CHIRP plan, CHIRP, Clay Hazard Immediate Response Plan, and it just gets all the special interests together in a room to talk about each individual school individually, instead of trying to cover all the schools with one giant plan.

Bill Godfrey:

That is so fantastic, and more than I've heard going on in other organizations. Once again, you're always on the cutting edge of making new stuff happen. So I-

Terry Nichols:

It is, it's brilliant. I'm sorry, Bill.

Bill Godfrey:

No, go ahead, Terry.

Terry Nichols:

It's great. It's absolutely brilliant, it really is, especially countywide. One thing I left out of the Brownwood, the exercises we did, the school district did their own little reunification exercise once we finished. So we did our piece of it, but they had staff that was working through the summer, and they worked on their reunification process. They actually brought up school buses, and took them to another facility, and worked and walked through the standard reunification method that they utilize.

So again, we did not get involved in that because we were taxed already, as far as the number of bodies we were pulling from the street through the tactical piece of all this, but they were doing it themselves. So it was nice to see them doing that. I know the superintendent out there, I know he's continuing that kind of stuff. It's very important to them. Seguin will be very similar, I'd have no doubt in my mind.

Bill Godfrey:

That's fantastic. So here's my last question for the two of you. Just within the last two weeks, NTOA, the National Tactical Officers Association, has announced that they're endorsing the Active Shooter Incident Management checklist as a national standard. And as I said on one of the previous podcasts, for our fire-EMS audience, NTOA is to law enforcement what the NFPA, the National Fire Protection Agency, is to the fire service. How do the two of you see that changing the conversation as we try to get people aware, trained, and implementing ASIM?

Terry Nichols:

It would certainly help. Having their endorsement and their stamp of approval is huge. I've been an NTOA member for years, got on their training, I've been to their active assailant training, active shooter training many years ago, back in the early days of Alert. It adds a lot of validity to it, not that it didn't already have it, because it does, but you may be reaching a whole different audience that, especially for your larger agencies that have full-time SWAT teams, and they say, "If we don't do an active shooter training, we've got this stuff done, it's gone ... y'all have to solve long before we get there."

But now, they get introduced ugh, or through their structure or their training in the tactical world, they get introduced to the ASIM model and the process that way now. Again, most of the country part-time teams, collateral duty, job, that kind of stuff, but your Los Angeleses, and your New York, and your Houstons, and your Austins and Bostons, and all those big places that may not get ASIM another way, may see it this way now. So I think it's a big deal, Bill.

Bill Godfrey:

Sheriff, how about you? How does it change things, or does it change things, for you at home there in Clay and in your surrounding areas?

Michelle Cook:

I'm not sure if it changes things. It doesn't surprise me, though, that NTOA would be one of the first to step up and acknowledge this. The NTOA has trained thousands and thousands and thousands of SWAT operators and SWAT leaders, and on a SWAT call-out, there's a process. And you think about, you call the SWAT team when it's really, really bad, and the SWAT team follows a chain of command, there's one talk, there's one commander.

So it doesn't surprise me that NTOA would see the value of a checklist like this, and understand that the checklist is really for those dynamic, ongoing ... those calls that are happening right then when we don't have time to wait for the SWAT team. Now, with that being said, my only concern, and this is something that, as a leader, you have to be cognizant of, is the checklist is not the answer. The answer is training with the checklist.

Bill Godfrey:

Yes, yes.

Michelle Cook:

So passing the checklist and saying, "Okay, now we have ASIM," that would be my only concern, because I'm thinking firemen are probably like this too, but cops, "Just make it easy for us. Give us a checklist."

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, we're all much more alike than we would like to admit.

Michelle Cook:

Yeah. That would be my only caution, is that the piece of paper is not the answer. It's training to the piece of paper that will help you get to the answer.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, and I think certainly in my conversations with the NTOA leadership, I think they're keenly aware of that, and we're having some very positive conversations about things that we are hoping to do with their organization to begin to push this out. I think we're probably going to start with some webinars, some announcement material, and things like that, but obviously, we've got to get into the training. You got to get into the hands-on training.

And I've said this before, and I will say it again, you can sit in a classroom and you can get lectured at, you can watch a video, but until you get up and put yourself in the moment and actually practice this under pressure, you just don't get it. You've got to give responders the opportunity to practice, hot wash it, and then let them practice again, and that's when they they build the competency.

I feel like it's a little bit of a trite analogy, but I've said it before, and I don't think there's anything quite better than that, you're not going to get to the Super Bowl with one practice. You've got to practice over and over again, and in a lot of ways, the quarterback on the field is a lot like tactical triage and transport, and then the coaches on the sideline are like the incident command post.

Everybody's working together, but how the heck are you going to pull that off on game day if nobody ever bothered to practice? It seems obvious, and when you break it down in those terms, everybody goes, "Oh yeah, I guess that makes sense," but making it a priority for agencies, it's tough. We got, what, 20 pounds of training requirements to fit into a one-pound day? Something's-

Terry Nichols:

In Texas, you're about to see that get a lot heavier, because again, after Uvalde, I think you're going to see this come to the forefront at the state level. So every state has mandated training for peace officers that we all have to go through every year. You will see we will be heavy on active shooter response, active assailant response, and it'll hopefully give those agencies that already bought in, that have ASIM training, that have the knowledge of it, to give them a chance to actually go out and practice it now, to check that box with the state, as it were.

And one of my leadership mentors, Dave Anderson, he says about working out, "How can you expect to go in the gym and squat 500 pounds if you've never squatted 100 pounds? So yeah, you got to practice, practice, practice, repetition, repetition, repetition. So what you said is spot on, but we've got to ... To have a piece of paper, laminated or not, just to pull out of your zipper shirt or out of your visor, is not the answer. You've got to use it.

Bill Godfrey:

Or on your phone. We've got it as the phone app too. Yeah, I completely agree, and the one thing I would say, in a perfect world, we would get everybody trained so competently and so passionately, and that, God forbid, the day comes that they're called upon, they would nail it and perfect it, and that would be wonderful. But a little goes a long way. A little bit of organization, a little bit of incident management, having a handful of leadership who understands the process and understand what needs to get done, to be able to organize the rest of the troops or the mutual aid people coming in, a little can go a long way. And yes, one day I would like to believe that we'll get every law enforcement, firefighter, EMT, and paramedic in the United States fully trained and competent in this material. But in the meantime, let's do a little something, because as we've seen more than once, a failure on the incident management side can just produce an unacceptable result.

Terry Nichols:

It's catastrophic, it's catastrophic, and witnessed recently, unfortunately, and it just ... and you're right, small pieces, and the sheriff's got it right. She's hitting it on the head, using it the priority-one calls, and get it ingrained, indoctrinated. And before we went live and started recording, I was joking with you, Bill, about, we have so much to learn from the fire service; we, being law enforcement.

Yeah, we may joke all day long about this incident command stuff. There's a cat up in a tree, and y'all set up incident command, there's no one-shot. But there's something to be said for this, and I tried it. I think both Seguin and Brownwood are better ... they are today than when I got there when it comes to this type of stuff. Not just the tactical piece of it, but the incident management piece of it. I hope they are. And it was a great challenge, and I'm an ambassador of it, and hopefully we got much more to learn, even if it's one at a time, one person at a time.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, and I think, Terry, between you and, certainly, Michelle, who is a very, very strong leader in the law enforcement community, and very sophisticated and forward-looking, I'm optimistic. I think we're going to get there. I think that this can happen, and we can get it done. And I'll share this one story with you, Terry, in fairness, coming back on the other side, because making fun of the cat in the tree, I always make fun of you law enforcement guys for the 540 degrees of coverage. I'm like, "Yeah, how does that math work? It's 360, and you start over again."

And I was teaching a class one day with ... and I make that joke on a fairly regular basis, which I should have known. And one of our other instructors, Adam, he was waiting for it, and as soon as I said it, he goes, "Okay, let me explain it to you, Bill. You get in the recliner, you spin around 360 degrees, and then you pull the lever to kick your feet back and you look up over your head. That's 540 degrees of coverage," and I said, "Okay, I got it. I deserve that."

Terry Nichols:

I owe him a beverage. I owe him a beverage.

Bill Godfrey:

Sheriff, you have any other closing words or thoughts that you want to offer before we wrap up for today?

Michelle Cook:

Just wanted to say thank you for the opportunity, and if any law enforcement leader out there, anybody in law enforcement, is looking for any ideas, or suggestions, or support, or how to lead your organization or your agency through the the beginnings of ASIM, obviously, C3 Pathways is the expert in the training, but I can definitely help people navigate the politics of it if needed. So always available to assist.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, that's very, very gracious of you. I have a feeling we're going to have people reaching out wanting your contact information. Terry, any final thoughts?

Terry Nichols:

I echo exactly what the sheriff said, Bill. Thank you so much for the opportunity to come to share my story, anyway, what I've experienced, but same way. I've done it in a rural community with very limited resources, and now in a larger, not near as large as the Sheriff for Jacksonville, but in a larger agency with ... And there are politics to navigate, there are egos to navigate.

Bill Godfrey:

Always.

Terry Nichols:

They're in ... I don't have all the answers, but I'll certainly give you my experience. So yeah, C3 Pathways is the point. Anybody listening or watching, reach out to C3, and if you want to talk to me directly, obviously, Bill will gladly share my contact information, and I will answer any question with anybody at any time about any issue as it relates to this, and my successes and my obvious failures as well.

Bill Godfrey:

Well, Terry, Michelle, thank you both so much for taking the time out of your day. I think what you've shared can be extremely valuable to those that need to walk in the same footsteps that you guys have already forged ahead, and I just can't thank you enough for continuing to support and be ambassadors, and for the work that both of you have accomplished. So thank you for being with us today on the show. Ladies and gentlemen, that's a wrap for our show today. Thank you for tuning in, and until we talk to you next time, stay safe.

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Ep 50: Implementing the ASIM Process

Sheriff Michelle Cook and Police Chief Terry Nichols share their experiences implementing the Active Shooter Incident Management Checklist process and their tips for success. Don't miss this discussion!

Bill Godfrey:

Welcome to the Active Shooter Incident Management Podcast. It's good to be back with you today. My name is Bill Godfrey. I'm your podcast host, and I have with me today two former C3 instructors as our guest stars today, both of them law enforcement leaders, and hoping that one day when they do retire-retire, we might actually get them back as C3 instructors; hint hint, Chief Nichols, who just retired in the last few weeks. So I have with me Michelle Cook. She is currently serving as the Sheriff in Clay County. She also did ... Michelle was almost 30 years at Jacksonville?

Michelle Cook:

26 years at Jacksonville, yeah.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, so 26 years at Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Police Department as the operations chief, so she had an awful lot of responsibility there. Did a short stint as the Police Chief at Atlantic Beach, which was kind of a retirement job, but too easy for you. You needed something with more, and so now she's the elected Sheriff at Clay County, which is in north Florida. And we have with us Terry Nichols. Terry was the Assistant Director at Alert from the founding to, what was it? 2018, 20-

Terry Nichols:

2016, 2016.

Bill Godfrey:

2016. Left Alert, became the Police Chief in Brownwood, Texas, and then you did, what, a little over three years there?

Terry Nichols:

Three years there, and then moved to Seguin as chief, and spent three years there, and now I'm retired

Bill Godfrey:

Like a week and a half ago, two weeks ago? It's been pretty recent.

Terry Nichols:

It's been a month, it's been a month.

Bill Godfrey:

So it's exciting to have both of you here. I really appreciate you taking the time. I know the sheriff especially, you have a very busy schedule. But I wanted to have a podcast where we talk about implementing the Active Shooter Incident Management checklist and the process that goes with it. Because it sounds simple on the surface, and when you've gone through training, it's fairly straightforward, but trying to roll that out to a whole organization is a little bit of a logistics machine.

And the two of you have each done this, not only in your organizations, but you've done it more than once. So sheriff, you did it at Jacksonville, then did it at Atlantic Beach, now at Clay County, and Terry, you did it at both Brownwood and Seguin. So what I wanted to just get from you guys is, what was it about this process that made you say, "This is the way I want to go," and what were your lessons learned? How did you approach it and go along the way? So sheriff, you want to start us off?

Michelle Cook:

Sure. First of all, thank you for having me today to talk about this. I'm very passionate about this. You've asked why ASIM, why choose this method of managing an active shooter event, and I will tell you, I'm entering into my 30th year of law enforcement, and I've worked some huge cases, some huge incidents, thousands of them, and for me, being a street cop for so long and then the leader of street cops, the ASIM process, the ASIM methodology, it just makes sense.

In our industry, and Terry, correct me if you see differently, we teach young officers, young supervisors, to handle everything themselves. And on 99% of the calls that we handle, that can be done, but on a mass critical incident, like an active shooter event, relying on one person to handle everything is just unrealistic, and that's how things get missed, and unfortunately, that's how people die, is you got one person trying to handle everything.

Terry Nichols:

Yeah. For me, everything the sheriff said makes perfect sense, and she is spot on. Having been involved with Alert and standing it up from the get go, driving it post-Columbine, and how we were training cops, and then fast-forward several years and get introduced to the ASIM model, and realizing we had been missing the boat early on. When we started first training our officers, we were missing the management piece of this. We were doing good at going in and realizing that we have a different duty. There's no longer sit and wait for SWAT, that we had a different mission on these active shooter events.

But there's a whole management piece of this, and like the sheriff alluded to, that we're real good at teaching cops to go handle a problem by themselves, and they do it 9 times out of 10, but these events are catastrophic. They are geographical in nature. It doesn't just happen in a vacuum in one little place, and it takes significant resource management being trained to do that, and that the ASIM, I was just pulled to it and said it makes all the sense in the world.

Bill Godfrey:

Well, it's very humbling to hear that, and I'm thrilled that you guys ... I was thrilled to have both of you as instructors and as founding members, if you will, of what we were doing a very, very long time ago. Terry, when you were at Alert, you had a hand in helping us get the pilot up and running, and Michelle attended one of the very first pilots. Wait, in fact, I think it was the very first pilot delivery we did for certification, when we did it at Seminole County, so you guys have certainly been on the road with us for a long time. Terry, what was your strategy? So Brownwood, you might want to ... Brownwood was a little more rural, Seguin's a little more suburban. What was your strategy when you wanted to implement it the first time around, and then how did that change for you the second time around?

Terry Nichols:

I want to back up to something that you said on the intro too, if I can remember what it was now, that it's not just an agency that we implemented these in, it was a geographical area. So it was multiple agencies.

Bill Godfrey:

Good point.

Terry Nichols:

Yeah, I may have been the Chief of Brownwood, but I had the Sheriff's Department, and I had two of the law enforcement agencies right there in the county as well, and it was very rural. If you look at Brownwood, Texas on a map, it is in the geographical center of Texas, and I tell people, "You go out to nowhere and turn left, and you're in Brownwood," and not a lot of resources out there.

Our closest big city is Abilene, Texas, and that's an hour away. But I knew, A, the need when I got there. I saw the quick needs assessment that we had no active shooter training. We had nothing. We had zero partnership with our fire and EMS partners, we had a third-party EMS provider, we were not working with our Sheriff's Department who was in the same building as us, so a lot of basic leadership stuff.

And it was fun to bring the ASIM stuff to us, and we did it through Counterstrike first. That's how we introduced it to the organization, but we brought in the Sheriff's Department and other law enforcement agencies in the county. And that brought us all together, where they weren't playing in the sandbox prior to me getting there for multiple reasons, but this was something we could all gather around and actually embrace.

And that really helped build relationships and, "Hey, we're not that bad. Hey, the people across the hall, hey, they're not that bad. They wear a brown uniform, we wear a blue uniform." So but it's also a rule. What we had is what we had, and help was a long way away. So we introduced it through Counterstrike, and then we did ASIM and the checklist, and we recurred training on it, and it was a success.

Bill Godfrey:

Sheriff, your first implementation was at Jacksonville, which, contrasting to Brownwood, is about as big as ... it's a big job. What was your strategy there? I know you had to play the long game. It took a while, but talk a little bit about what you did at Jacksonville.

Michelle Cook:

Sure. So in Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office actually, at the time, was the 25th largest agency in the country, so a large agency. And what we decided to do is offer the ASIM class to those who wanted it first, because we thought if we could get those folks who are interested in it to buy into it, then they could go out and help sell it to the rest of the agency. And that really, for us, worked out good, because we ended up with ASIM disciples, is what I call them, and those are folks who were all in, who, on the street, if somebody had a question, they could speak to what ASIM was, and the benefits of it, and stuff like that.

So it took us several years. We had to get through about 1,400 people trained, so it took us several years, several training cycles, to get everybody through. Contrast that to ... Let me go back. In Jacksonville, we also had a really close relationship with the fire department, and so they were in on the training from the beginning with us, and that was very, very beneficial.

In fact, I think it was in Jacksonville, we started using rescue task forces at special events, and that was a chance for us to practice a concept with our police and fire working together on all of our pre-planned special events, so when the the day did come that we had an active shooter, we would be prepared to ... and we wouldn't have to stop and explain to people what a rescue task force was, so that worked out really well.

And we had the active shooter incident at The Landing, and we got fortunate that day because there was actually a fire department unit training a block away. But if you go back and you listen to the radio broadcast, and you listen, and you read the after-action reports, it was very clear that not only the active shooter tactical training that we had been practicing and training so hard for worked, but also, the Active Shooter Incident Management portion of that trained, and people fell right into place.

And so it was really ... I had just left when that happened, but it was very gratifying to see all that hard work going into saving people's lives. So move forward to Atlantic Beach, again, much like Terry, a very small agency. We had 30 people total, including myself, and for me, I incorporated not only some of the fire department folks again in this, but public works. Our public works folks had a big presence out there in the city of Atlanta Beach, and so they were pulled into some of the safer jobs, and we trained with public works on these things, and safety...

Bill Godfrey:

Okay, well, we're not going to let you get away with that that easy. You're going to have to tell a little bit about what you did, and why, and how it worked out.

Michelle Cook:

So what we did is we got the public works guys because ... specifically the school, but other locations as well, we had ... Atlantic Beach is a beach town, so there's lots of roads leading in, and one of the concerns we had is that when something happened, that traffic would be backed up and blocked so bad that we would not be able to get mutual aid or fire rescue into the scene.

So we train the public works guys on how to use their big trucks to hold traffic positions until relieved by a law enforcement officer, and again, they were instrumental and vital to our plan out there, and talking about building relationships and everybody being on the same page. So that worked out really good. Small agency, limited resources. We-

Bill Godfrey:

Did you get any pushback from the public works guys and gals, or were they pretty excited about it?

Michelle Cook:

Oh, they were having a blast. We also incorporated them, just on a side note, in our search for missing people. As soon as we had a missing person call go out in the city of Atlantic Beach, our publics works people would getting notified on their phones that we were looking for missing persons, and so they would also help us look for missing people. So it was really just, you go back to, if you have limited resources, if you're in a jurisdiction then you have limited resources, there are other groups that you can pull in safely to help augment or supplement your agency.

Bill Godfrey:

Sure, sure.

Michelle Cook:

Yeah, so that...

Bill Godfrey:

So how did your approach ... Other than the public works, what was the big glaring differences for you implementing it at Atlantic Beach, versus implementing ASIM at the Atlantic Beach versus Jacksonville?

Michelle Cook:

You know, Jacksonville, there was always the potential for over-convergence just from get go, just because of the sheer number of resources in Duval County. In Atlantic Beach, it was the exact opposite. How long do we have to wait until help gets here, and then how do you manage so much mutual aid? Because in Atlantic Beach, we would have Neptune Beach, Jacks Beach, Jacksonville, Mayport police, all potentially responding, all with different communication, radio channels.

And so we had to make sure that when we developed our plan in Atlantic Beach, that all those surrounding agencies knew what our plan was, so that if and when something did happen, they would know what radio frequency to go to. Where would staging be? We preset all those ahead of time so that would be no question day of, and that's the value of a smaller jurisdiction, is you can do a lot of that ahead of time.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, you really regionalized your approach, which Terry mentioned even at Brownwood and bringing some of the others in. Terry, when you went over to Seguin, what did you do a little bit differently there at that one? And talk a little bit about how you stepped outside of the city to bring in your regional partners, similar to what Michelle was just talking about.

Terry Nichols:

Yeah, pretty much the same thing. The good news is we had a great relationship with the fire department there. It's a larger organization. I say larger. We had 60 sworn at the time, but we're a lot closer ... San Antonio's, a rock throw away, Austin's an hour away, San Marcos is close. So we have a lot of resources, and in the Braunfels real close to us if we need them.

One thing that this community had lived through was Sutherland Springs. We had first responders ... Sutherland Springs was literally 15 miles, 20 miles, from Seguin, so we had first responders that actually went down there that day. So it was very close to Seguin, meaning and close to their heart. They did not have ASIM, though. They did not have any training. Most of them had been through Alert or some level of tactical training. The tactical piece of it, the sheriff mentioned, but nobody had the management piece.

So I took what I did in Brownwood, and we invested in the Counterstrike and they ran everybody through Counterstrike first. Then we brought in an ASIM advance class, and that's when we really got the buy-in. There were already a group going on countywide, they met monthly. An integrated response group, it was run by the county Fire Marshal's Office, and they would meet monthly, and they would meet, and they would sit around and talk about the same thing over and over and over. And then I became chief there, and they all look at me like, "Oh my God, look what just walked in the door. We've got somebody that"-

Bill Godfrey:

Fresh meat.

Terry Nichols:

"That knows what they're doing, that'll come rescue us." So we started getting some synergy going there with that, and then the ASIM advanced that we hosted not long before I left, we were lucky enough to get really solidified, because we filled that class. It was great to see so many people.

And I got a text on July 4th from the assistant fire chief saying that, "We have a huge parade July 4th in Seguin," and that's largest one in Texas. But, just what the sheriff mentioned, they had rescue task forces stood up, an IEP, the whole thing that ... I'd been walking them through, doing this slowly, baby steps, but they had done it for the parade, and he was so proud of himself, and I'm so proud of them.

He said, "Look at your legacy, what you've left behind." I was like, I didn't do anything. I just came and got the ball rolling. You guys now go with it. But it's come time for both places to test, and that I think that, we'll talk about some challenges in a minute, but it's come time to start to test it. Don't wait for game day. We need to start testing these things.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, and it's funny, both of you have talked about opportunities to exercise and practice, I shouldn't use the word exercise, but to practice some of these concepts in your special events and pre-planned events, and I know that that's a huge part of socialization and absolutely a best practice.

And before I move on, I do want to comment for the audience, if you're wondering why these two both had ASIM advances, they were both leaders who contacted us and said, "If you ever have a last-minute cancellation, all I need is two weeks notice and I can make it work," and that's how both of them got ASIM classes. They picked up cancellation slots that came in from others on short notice.

But sheriff, I know that you started off by doing the RTFs, and the idea of contact teams in your IEPs for special events, and for the football games, and things like that in Jacksonville, but not too long after that, you took that a step further, certainly at clay county, I know you've began incorporating some of these practices into other calls not active shooter. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Michelle Cook:

Sure. So it actually ... the guys in Atlantic Beach started it, and it's carried forward to Clay County, and I really think this is going to end up being a best practice. And so what we've done is, on priority-one calls, where we have an active scene that's dynamic and fluid, whoever is tactical declares tactical, and they have command of the hot zone.

So whether it's a burglary in progress to a store, or a fire at a house, or a gas leak, the person that's going to drive the resources to specific tasks based on an overall strategy declares tactical, and then our incident commander goes down the road and declares command, and then supports tactical.

And this is really ... like I said, this happened organically in both agencies, but I think it's going to end up being a best practice for us, is this allows the men and women in uniform to use the terminology, use the concepts, and it won't be foreign to them, God forbid, if something ever happened. So they're using it on priority-one calls now.

Bill Godfrey:

I think that's fabulous, and the history of the fire service, and I know we all like to make fun, the fire department will set up incident command on a barking dog call. And yeah, true, but that's actually how we got everybody to understand it. When the ICS structure first started coming out in the late 70s and then rolled into the 80s, and people started stepping up and taking notice, the way we got it indoctrinated culturally was we used it on everything.

Overkill? Yeah. Was it necessary? Probably not, but did it expedite the cultural integration and locking that in? And it really did. And I know we've had some conversations about the idea of morphing the Active Shooter Incident Management checklist process into something that's a little more generic, like a generic response posture to violent events or potentially-violent events, and I wonder if you could comment on that?

So on the fire service, we have alarm levels. So what we send to a residential structure fire is different than what we send to a commercial structure fire, and when we escalate that and call for more resources, and so that's that standard package. And it seems to me like there might be a real good argument and a logical application for something like that, a standard response protocol for hostile events or potentially-violent events on law enforcement. What are the two of you think about that?

Terry Nichols:

You know, I can agree. I think that's a great best practice, sheriff, and I commend you for it. I think Seguin, we could have certainly done that in Seguin, and hopefully a little more naturally; like you said, organically. What I think we saw that the cops have been missing, the officers have been missing, is the actual practical application of ICS. Everybody's done the 100, the 200, 300, all of the classes, and we all...

Bill Godfrey:

Nobody shared answers.

Terry Nichols:

Yeah, they never share answers, but they never seen the practical application of it, and that's what ASIM brings you, or that's what the Counterstrike tool brings them, is a practical application? "Okay, I see how this is supposed to work now," but you've got to go out and now practice it, and if you can incorporate it into your priority-one-type calls or something like that, I think that's brilliant to be able to do something like that, because it just further ingrains that it should be second nature. when the big one, when that day happens, it's already ingrained in the organizational culture.

Bill Godfrey:

Good point. Sheriff, what are your thoughts?

Michelle Cook:

You know, I would agree. The challenge we have in law enforcement is ... because every call that we go on is so different, and to broad brush, saying, "Okay, all of these types of calls, you have to do this," it can be a double-edged sword. So I liked the fact that, at least in my agencies, it happened organically, and when the troops buy in, then you don't have to ram it down their throat; it's better all the way around.

But I would love to see some sort of standardization, maybe at each state level, and using the lingo of each state to implement a standard hostile encounter response, or priority-one response, or whatever you want to call it. The challenge for us is, a priority-one call can be somebody shot, to a burglary in progress, to a car crash, to ... So I like it. I'm just not quite sure on how to execute it yet.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, I think it's one of those ideas that we ... Let's face it. Both of our industries are not necessarily known for changing quickly. In the fire service, and you guys have heard me say this before, we have a saying, "200 years of tradition unimpeded by progress," and we mean that. But I think this is one of those places where it's an idea, but we need to take time. I think we need to see what begins to develop organically, what works. Where's the stickiness in an organization? What types of incidents or responses does it make sense, and where doesn't it make sense?

think we just have to take our time with it, but it's an interesting idea that I want to keep talking about as we move forward. So let me ask both of you this. What, if anything, when you were implementing the ASIM process at any of either of your agencies, what caught you by surprise, or were some lessons learned, or advice that you would give to other law enforcement leaders like yourself, who are wanting to go down this path? Sheriff, you want to start?

Michelle Cook:

Sure. My advice would be find ASIM disciples first. Let them buy in and help sell it, versus forcing everybody to go to classes right off the bat. Understand that ASIM is a perishable skill, so if you're not using it on the street for your priority-one calls, you have to find other ways to continue the dialogue.

And that can include using some of the concepts on pre-planned events. For us, it includes ... we have written out manuscripts, responses, for some of our larger churches and mall, and our personnel read them. And we got this idea from, actually, the Blue Angels, and before every flight, they sit down and they verbally talk about what they're going to do during flight. And so we sit down and we verbally articulate, "If my role is tactical, this is what I'm doing. If I'm a contact team, this is what I'm doing," and that seems to keep the skills fresh.

We've also put together some PowerPoints where we have little pieces moving, kind of like the Counterstrike board moving, and then we have people talking about what's happening; again, pushing the concepts out. So my advice would be find ASIM disciples, then push it out to everybody, and then find creative ways to keep the conversation going regularly. And before we get off this podcast, Bill, I want to talk about something exciting that's happening in Clay County right now as we speak, so don't let me forget that.

Bill Godfrey:

Okay, I'm going to make myself a note. Terry, how about you? What were the surprises or lessons learned or advice that you would offer something to another law enforcement leader?

Terry Nichols:

In Brownwood, I walked into, I mentioned earlier, a, I won't say adversarial community, but everybody wasn't getting along, and I used it as a tool to bring everybody together. So I thought it was very useful that way. Now see, the fire department, they got along, but they didn't work together. They knew each other, but they didn't get ... that was it. They was the fireman, we're the police officers. But I used it as a unique tool to bring everybody together, and I thought that was unique.

I agree with the disciples, or ambassadors, as I often refer to them, as somebody that will go out there and carry that brand. They're passionate about it. They're just passionate as I am, as you are, as the sheriff is, and so many other folks around. Our new ... Our. The city's new assistant fire chief is one of those ambassadors. He was a hire about eight months before I left, and he came from a neighboring agency, and he is an absolute ambassador.

He told me at my retirement reception, he's like, "You're part of the reason I came over here, and now you're leaving." He's relating, "I'm passionate about this Active Shooter Incident Management stuff, and you were here, and I was like, 'All right, what a great opportunity.'" I said, "Sorry, dude, it's that time. 33 years is enough time."

And I have to agree with you, we did not have the practice at either organization down, like the sheriff explained. We did not have that ongoing, and I learned that the hard way in Brownwood. When we get to that story, I'll tell you that later on, that it is a perishable skill, and you've got to figure out some ways, some unique ways, to continue to get the information out and rehearse, refresh, that going on. And with the events in Texas in the past couple months, I don't think that's going to be hard to do to get that refresher stuff going.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, do you want to go ahead and talk about what you learned in Brownwood about the retention in perishable skills?

Terry Nichols:

Yeah, so we ran Counterstrike. We did not have the ASIM yet, but we ran Counterstrike. Everybody through the Sheriff's Department, third-party ambulance provider, the hospital, staff attended, everybody. And then a month later, we held an exercise at the school. No SIMS, nothing like that, it was all moulage. We had actually role-players, Moulage, and the hospital was involved.

So we did transports, they tested their MCI surge capability. It worked great, and I think our out-the-door time for the first patient was like 20 minutes. It was remarkable. For having only done it, and we had just trained the month before, so it was great, the sad part, we had lost an officer the week before that to an off-duty traffic collision, and I almost canceled the event simply because of that. We had a lot of trauma we were going through as an organization. We didn't, I'm glad we didn't, because it really brought us all back together focused on our mission.

The next year, my intentions are always great, but you're not judged by your intention. My intention was to do followup training the following year, that spring, and do another exercise at the school, change it up slightly, and get the hospital, everybody, involved. We never got around to the refresher training. This happened, the world happened, everything happened, but we still did the exercise. My fire chief had pretty much checked out mentally. He just wasn't that engaged. Our out-of-the-building time for our first casualty was like 50 minutes. It was 50 minutes.

Bill Godfrey:

50? Five zero?

Terry Nichols:

Yeah, five zero, which, to me, was absolute failure, catastrophic failure. It's like, what happened? And it was a lack of recurring training, is what boils down to. People had forgotten their roles, they'd forgotten ... they had the checklist, they had in front of them, but they'd forgotten how to do the basic fundamental things, the basic fundamental piece of this.

So the good lesson learned, keeping that buy-in from those ambassadors, especially the agency heads, I would think that I could sit across from my fire chief, and I could in Seguin, and have a very candid conversation. It was not quite that same way in Brownwood, as it turned out to be. That was part of the issue I faced.

The other issue is my own, I had to own it, that I did not continue to push the training. Life happened, other things happened, and I did not make it a top priority as it should have been, and we saw the outcome of that during that exercise, and I was just as mad as a hornet. I was just absolutely furious at myself, not at the performance of my troops, because they did the best they could. It was at me for not doing that refresher training.

Bill Godfrey:

Powerful story. Sheriff, anything that you want to add on that before I come back to what's going on there at Clay County?

Michelle Cook:

I'm with Terry. This is a perishable skill all day long, and you've got to find creative ways to continue the conversations. To think that you're going to bring in a class one time, and somehow people are going to retain it, that's just not going to work. You got to continue the conversations, whether it's the Counterstrike board. For us, it's reading scripts and PowerPoints, and handling priority-one calls using ASIM concepts. Also, the preplanned events, using as many concepts as we can during the preplanned event, and that's how you keep the conversations fresh.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, I completely agree. So tell us a little bit about what's going on there at Clay that you're excited about.

Michelle Cook:

So really thrilled about this. We were actually having these conversations before Uvalde, and Uvalde really just cemented our commitment to them. So in Clay County, like all school districts across America, our school board came up with a reunification plan, which sounded great on paper. It looks fantastic in this big ring binder that nobody's ever going to look at. So I brought in the county emergency manager, the safety director for the school board, and the school board police chief, and said, "Guys, we have our plan, you have your plan, the schools have their plan. None of us know each other's plan."

So right now, what we're doing is we're hosting, I think we're up to 51 meetings. We're bringing school administrators in; the superintendent; fire rescue; the police agency if it's in a municipality, and we bring that jurisdiction in; the school resource officers; the school board police; the safety director for the school board; my patrol division; my special events division, and my traffic division. And we'll have anywhere from 20 to 30 people in the room, and we put the school up on the board and we say, "Okay, this is Clay High School. All right, so school administrators, what is your lockdown ... what is your policy?"

So they tell us what their policy is, and then we talk about what to expect from us. "You're going to have solo officer response. You may see something called a contact team. What do you ... We've made an agreement on where we're going to keep extra weapons and other items locked in the school, so where is that location? How do we turn off your alarms in your school?" And then we challenge our traffic guys, "What intersections do you have to own to lock this school down?"

And then to the school people, "How are we going to ... Let's talk about reunification. What does that look like?" And then we tell them, "Hey, this is what our contact teams are going to be doing. This is what our rescue task forces are going to be doing. There's a position called tactical, and if you can find that person safely and provide information on who the suspect is, where they're at, go find that person. This is what's going to be happening at the command post."

So we tell them all of that, and really, what we've done is we've taken the individual school plans, we've taken the school board police response plan, we've taken the fire response plan, we've taken our plan. We've really molded it into a document, and since I've been driving the conversations from the beginning, they're very ASIM-centric. And the documents are just a few pages, and I could literally ...

We've identified, for example, all the intersections in the area that we need to control. "I'm not telling you on game day which direction to push traffic, but these are the intersections that we have to control." So we have a single sheet of paper, it lists each intersection, and then how many deputies it takes to control that intersection. So if Terry's coming in for mutual aid, and I can pull off this sheet of paper and hand it to Terry and say, "You've got traffic."

So we've done this with our schools. We're about 12 or so schools in now that we've been holding these meetings, and I tell you, the sense of cooperation, coordination, the understanding of ASIM, because we tell them, "You guys locking down and us neutralizing the bad guy is really just the beginning. There's going to be so much more that has to happen," and opening their eyes of what to expect from us, what we can expect from them, and we're calling it the Clay County CHIRP plan, CHIRP, Clay Hazard Immediate Response Plan, and it just gets all the special interests together in a room to talk about each individual school individually, instead of trying to cover all the schools with one giant plan.

Bill Godfrey:

That is so fantastic, and more than I've heard going on in other organizations. Once again, you're always on the cutting edge of making new stuff happen. So I-

Terry Nichols:

It is, it's brilliant. I'm sorry, Bill.

Bill Godfrey:

No, go ahead, Terry.

Terry Nichols:

It's great. It's absolutely brilliant, it really is, especially countywide. One thing I left out of the Brownwood, the exercises we did, the school district did their own little reunification exercise once we finished. So we did our piece of it, but they had staff that was working through the summer, and they worked on their reunification process. They actually brought up school buses, and took them to another facility, and worked and walked through the standard reunification method that they utilize.

So again, we did not get involved in that because we were taxed already, as far as the number of bodies we were pulling from the street through the tactical piece of all this, but they were doing it themselves. So it was nice to see them doing that. I know the superintendent out there, I know he's continuing that kind of stuff. It's very important to them. Seguin will be very similar, I'd have no doubt in my mind.

Bill Godfrey:

That's fantastic. So here's my last question for the two of you. Just within the last two weeks, NTOA, the National Tactical Officers Association, has announced that they're endorsing the Active Shooter Incident Management checklist as a national standard. And as I said on one of the previous podcasts, for our fire-EMS audience, NTOA is to law enforcement what the NFPA, the National Fire Protection Agency, is to the fire service. How do the two of you see that changing the conversation as we try to get people aware, trained, and implementing ASIM?

Terry Nichols:

It would certainly help. Having their endorsement and their stamp of approval is huge. I've been an NTOA member for years, got on their training, I've been to their active assailant training, active shooter training many years ago, back in the early days of Alert. It adds a lot of validity to it, not that it didn't already have it, because it does, but you may be reaching a whole different audience that, especially for your larger agencies that have full-time SWAT teams, and they say, "If we don't do an active shooter training, we've got this stuff done, it's gone ... y'all have to solve long before we get there."

But now, they get introduced ugh, or through their structure or their training in the tactical world, they get introduced to the ASIM model and the process that way now. Again, most of the country part-time teams, collateral duty, job, that kind of stuff, but your Los Angeleses, and your New York, and your Houstons, and your Austins and Bostons, and all those big places that may not get ASIM another way, may see it this way now. So I think it's a big deal, Bill.

Bill Godfrey:

Sheriff, how about you? How does it change things, or does it change things, for you at home there in Clay and in your surrounding areas?

Michelle Cook:

I'm not sure if it changes things. It doesn't surprise me, though, that NTOA would be one of the first to step up and acknowledge this. The NTOA has trained thousands and thousands and thousands of SWAT operators and SWAT leaders, and on a SWAT call-out, there's a process. And you think about, you call the SWAT team when it's really, really bad, and the SWAT team follows a chain of command, there's one talk, there's one commander.

So it doesn't surprise me that NTOA would see the value of a checklist like this, and understand that the checklist is really for those dynamic, ongoing ... those calls that are happening right then when we don't have time to wait for the SWAT team. Now, with that being said, my only concern, and this is something that, as a leader, you have to be cognizant of, is the checklist is not the answer. The answer is training with the checklist.

Bill Godfrey:

Yes, yes.

Michelle Cook:

So passing the checklist and saying, "Okay, now we have ASIM," that would be my only concern, because I'm thinking firemen are probably like this too, but cops, "Just make it easy for us. Give us a checklist."

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, we're all much more alike than we would like to admit.

Michelle Cook:

Yeah. That would be my only caution, is that the piece of paper is not the answer. It's training to the piece of paper that will help you get to the answer.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, and I think certainly in my conversations with the NTOA leadership, I think they're keenly aware of that, and we're having some very positive conversations about things that we are hoping to do with their organization to begin to push this out. I think we're probably going to start with some webinars, some announcement material, and things like that, but obviously, we've got to get into the training. You got to get into the hands-on training.

And I've said this before, and I will say it again, you can sit in a classroom and you can get lectured at, you can watch a video, but until you get up and put yourself in the moment and actually practice this under pressure, you just don't get it. You've got to give responders the opportunity to practice, hot wash it, and then let them practice again, and that's when they they build the competency.

I feel like it's a little bit of a trite analogy, but I've said it before, and I don't think there's anything quite better than that, you're not going to get to the Super Bowl with one practice. You've got to practice over and over again, and in a lot of ways, the quarterback on the field is a lot like tactical triage and transport, and then the coaches on the sideline are like the incident command post.

Everybody's working together, but how the heck are you going to pull that off on game day if nobody ever bothered to practice? It seems obvious, and when you break it down in those terms, everybody goes, "Oh yeah, I guess that makes sense," but making it a priority for agencies, it's tough. We got, what, 20 pounds of training requirements to fit into a one-pound day? Something's-

Terry Nichols:

In Texas, you're about to see that get a lot heavier, because again, after Uvalde, I think you're going to see this come to the forefront at the state level. So every state has mandated training for peace officers that we all have to go through every year. You will see we will be heavy on active shooter response, active assailant response, and it'll hopefully give those agencies that already bought in, that have ASIM training, that have the knowledge of it, to give them a chance to actually go out and practice it now, to check that box with the state, as it were.

And one of my leadership mentors, Dave Anderson, he says about working out, "How can you expect to go in the gym and squat 500 pounds if you've never squatted 100 pounds? So yeah, you got to practice, practice, practice, repetition, repetition, repetition. So what you said is spot on, but we've got to ... To have a piece of paper, laminated or not, just to pull out of your zipper shirt or out of your visor, is not the answer. You've got to use it.

Bill Godfrey:

Or on your phone. We've got it as the phone app too. Yeah, I completely agree, and the one thing I would say, in a perfect world, we would get everybody trained so competently and so passionately, and that, God forbid, the day comes that they're called upon, they would nail it and perfect it, and that would be wonderful. But a little goes a long way. A little bit of organization, a little bit of incident management, having a handful of leadership who understands the process and understand what needs to get done, to be able to organize the rest of the troops or the mutual aid people coming in, a little can go a long way. And yes, one day I would like to believe that we'll get every law enforcement, firefighter, EMT, and paramedic in the United States fully trained and competent in this material. But in the meantime, let's do a little something, because as we've seen more than once, a failure on the incident management side can just produce an unacceptable result.

Terry Nichols:

It's catastrophic, it's catastrophic, and witnessed recently, unfortunately, and it just ... and you're right, small pieces, and the sheriff's got it right. She's hitting it on the head, using it the priority-one calls, and get it ingrained, indoctrinated. And before we went live and started recording, I was joking with you, Bill, about, we have so much to learn from the fire service; we, being law enforcement.

Yeah, we may joke all day long about this incident command stuff. There's a cat up in a tree, and y'all set up incident command, there's no one-shot. But there's something to be said for this, and I tried it. I think both Seguin and Brownwood are better ... they are today than when I got there when it comes to this type of stuff. Not just the tactical piece of it, but the incident management piece of it. I hope they are. And it was a great challenge, and I'm an ambassador of it, and hopefully we got much more to learn, even if it's one at a time, one person at a time.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, and I think, Terry, between you and, certainly, Michelle, who is a very, very strong leader in the law enforcement community, and very sophisticated and forward-looking, I'm optimistic. I think we're going to get there. I think that this can happen, and we can get it done. And I'll share this one story with you, Terry, in fairness, coming back on the other side, because making fun of the cat in the tree, I always make fun of you law enforcement guys for the 540 degrees of coverage. I'm like, "Yeah, how does that math work? It's 360, and you start over again."

And I was teaching a class one day with ... and I make that joke on a fairly regular basis, which I should have known. And one of our other instructors, Adam, he was waiting for it, and as soon as I said it, he goes, "Okay, let me explain it to you, Bill. You get in the recliner, you spin around 360 degrees, and then you pull the lever to kick your feet back and you look up over your head. That's 540 degrees of coverage," and I said, "Okay, I got it. I deserve that."

Terry Nichols:

I owe him a beverage. I owe him a beverage.

Bill Godfrey:

Sheriff, you have any other closing words or thoughts that you want to offer before we wrap up for today?

Michelle Cook:

Just wanted to say thank you for the opportunity, and if any law enforcement leader out there, anybody in law enforcement, is looking for any ideas, or suggestions, or support, or how to lead your organization or your agency through the the beginnings of ASIM, obviously, C3 Pathways is the expert in the training, but I can definitely help people navigate the politics of it if needed. So always available to assist.

Bill Godfrey:

Yeah, that's very, very gracious of you. I have a feeling we're going to have people reaching out wanting your contact information. Terry, any final thoughts?

Terry Nichols:

I echo exactly what the sheriff said, Bill. Thank you so much for the opportunity to come to share my story, anyway, what I've experienced, but same way. I've done it in a rural community with very limited resources, and now in a larger, not near as large as the Sheriff for Jacksonville, but in a larger agency with ... And there are politics to navigate, there are egos to navigate.

Bill Godfrey:

Always.

Terry Nichols:

They're in ... I don't have all the answers, but I'll certainly give you my experience. So yeah, C3 Pathways is the point. Anybody listening or watching, reach out to C3, and if you want to talk to me directly, obviously, Bill will gladly share my contact information, and I will answer any question with anybody at any time about any issue as it relates to this, and my successes and my obvious failures as well.

Bill Godfrey:

Well, Terry, Michelle, thank you both so much for taking the time out of your day. I think what you've shared can be extremely valuable to those that need to walk in the same footsteps that you guys have already forged ahead, and I just can't thank you enough for continuing to support and be ambassadors, and for the work that both of you have accomplished. So thank you for being with us today on the show. Ladies and gentlemen, that's a wrap for our show today. Thank you for tuning in, and until we talk to you next time, stay safe.

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