Picatinny Arsenal Police and Fire Departments train to deploy a Rescue Task Force

By Eric KowalFebruary 6, 2024

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Rodney Ryan, Chief, Picatinny Arsenal Physical Security) VIEW ORIGINAL

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - The Picatinny Arsenal Police Department and Fire Department have begun a series of cohesive training events for active shooter scenarios and the deployment of a Rescue Task Force (RTF).

An RTF is a set of teams deployed to provide medical care to victims where there is an on-going ballistic or explosive threat. These teams treat, stabilize, and remove the injured quickly under the protection of law enforcement officers.

An RTF response may include an active shooter scenario or any other scene that might be an on-going ballistic or explosive threat.

Active shooter and mass casualty incidents can require extraordinary efforts by local police, fire/rescue, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agencies. Certain incidents may result in multiple casualties that require extensive triage, treatment, and transportation. While the circumstances will differ from incident to incident, awareness and planning can better position public safety agencies to deploy with greater effectiveness when needed.

Multiple fire/rescue and EMS functions may occur during an active shooter incident response, which may influence tactical decisions by responding law enforcement officials. According to the FBI, there were nine incidents when law enforcement officers engaged in gunfire with the shooter during calendar year 2022. In five of the incidents, 16 officers were injured.

Because there is no “one-size fits all” solution to the challenge of an integrated response, tight coordination between police, fire, and EMS during pre-planning and training can pay great dividends during all requests for service, from routine calls to natural disasters.

In 2022, the FBI designated 50 shootings as active shooter incidents with 313 casualties (100 killed and 213 wounded). Considering the increasing frequency of these complex and chaotic incidents, fire departments need a formalized response plan – one that’s unified with EMS and police.

The first phase of response training is weapons proficiency for the law enforcement officers, and immersion to the sound of gun fire by the firefighters in a safe and controlled environment. During a two-day training exercise, police officers fired various weapons while the firefighters observed to familiarize their senses with the sounds and smells they may experience in a real-life situation.

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Rodney Ryan, Chief, Picatinny Arsenal Physical Security) VIEW ORIGINAL

Picatinny Arsenal Police Chief Michael Champa pointed out that “the worst possible time to have a reaction to gun fire is during a real event.”

Champa outlined safety instructions and ensured that both the police officers and the firefighters understood the safety aspects of live-fire actions. This phase of the training was to help the two teams develop a team camaraderie needed for an active shooter event and the deployment of an RTF.

“The approach we are taking is the crawl, walk, run methodology of the training world,” said Champa. “We cannot assume to know what we don’t know. This is the first training event in a series of events to validate the concept of the Rescue Task Force here at Picatinny. The next phase will be a classroom session where it will be a more comfortable atmosphere since both the police and fire departments have already ‘broken the ice’ in training together with the Live Fire Expose Exercise under our belts.”

In an active shooter situation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends the following:

• Be aware of your surroundings and any possible dangers.

• Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility you visit.

• If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door.

• If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.

• As a last resort, attempt to take the active shooter down. When the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her.

• Call 911 when it is safe to do so

More information about Active Shooter Preparedness may be found at: