Responding to Mass Violence: Preparation is Key

In recent weeks, the topic of mass violence has weighed heavily on our hearts and minds.  As we mourn lives lost and provide support to grieving families and communities, law enforcement agencies and other public safety partners must also turn their attention to planning and preparation to ensure that they are response-ready should tragedy strike again.    

There is a broad range of resources available to agencies and communities as they assess their situational readiness and develop comprehensive emergency response plans.  In the event of a mass casualty incident, there are several helpful tools to guide response to the immediate, short-term, and ongoing needs of victims and responders.  There are also federal funding sources to support response and recovery. The resources we’ve identified below will be helpful as you review your agency and/or community action plans:

Planning and Response

  • The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Law Enforcement Policy Center’s Active Shooter Model Policy and Issues Paper provides concrete guidance and directives, as well as context and background information, and includes protocols for assessing the threat and immediately responding during active shooter situations to limit serious injury or loss of life. While the term “active shooter” is used throughout, the guidance applies to all situations where there is an active assailant or assailants posing an ongoing deadly threat.


  • Developed by the RAND Corporation through funding from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the Mass Attacks Defense Toolkit was created to help reduce the likelihood of mass shootings and other public attacks and reduce the casualties of completed attacks. Based on analysis of over 600 mass attack events and plots, researchers describe the most important tips they found to help reduce the likelihood and casualties of attacks. They also point to key guidance and resources for agencies in need of comprehensive information as they build out their own plans.




  • The Casualty Care Toolkit, developed through BJA’s VALOR Officer Safety and Wellness Program (VALOR Program), equips law enforcement officers with the essential tools and knowledge to save lives in the field through effective casualty care techniques.  Based on the Tactical Combat Casualty Care guidelines, which are utilized by all U.S. military Special Forces medics and medically trained soldiers, the toolkit contains demonstration videos, printable resources, and roll-call drills.



  • CNA and NSA developed a toolkit that provides a step-by-step plan for conducting an active shooter incident response exercise on a military installation. The Active Shooter Exercise Kit includes conduct slides, facilitator guides, participant handbooks, and a summary report template. 


  • The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the IACP have partnered to launch the Mass Violence Advisory Initiative (MVAI), which provides peer-to-peer assistance to law enforcement leaders following a mass violence tragedy to maximize the safety and wellness of officers, other first responders, and the community. 


  • After any critical incident, reflection and review are critical to identifying gaps and strengthening future response.  After action reports for several mass shootings in recent years are available on the IACP’s website here.


Emergency Funding

  • The Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance (EFLEA) Program, administered by BJA, assists states and/or local units of government in responding to extraordinary law enforcement emergencies through grant funding to help alleviate costs, such as overtime, incurred by law enforcement during response. Congress’ intent for the EFLEA Program was to create an assistance program that addresses extraordinary circumstances with the potential to generate serious threats to public safety. The two-step application process following a law enforcement emergency begins with a letter from the State Administering Agency (SAA) Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) contact for the affected state, acting on behalf of the chief executive officer for the state, to the BJA Director.  BJA evaluates EFLEA Program applications based on the likelihood that a situation could escalate into a law enforcement emergency of epidemic proportion and subsequently pose an imminent threat to public safety. The emergency must be of sufficient magnitude to overwhelm a state or local government’s ability to respond. If the request is approved, the SAA JAG contact will be invited to submit a formal application and will be provided with written guidance on how to apply.


  • OVC supports communities responding to terrorist attacks and mass violence through its Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program (AEAP) The AEAP offers four grant funding streams to provide timely relief for immediate and ongoing victim assistance services to qualified applicants: crisis response, crime victim compensation, consequence management, and criminal justice support.  Qualified applicants include state victim assistance and compensation programs; public agencies, including federal, state, and local governments; federally recognized Indian tribal governments; U.S. Attorneys’ Offices; public institutions of higher education; and nongovernmental and victim service organizations. AEAP grants are available by OVC invitation only.  Shortly after an event, OVC will contact officials in the state or jurisdiction where the incident occurred to discuss the scope of the victims’ needs and explain what resources may be available. 



  • The Office for Victims of Crime’s The Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT) was developed on the premise that exposure to the traumatic experiences of other people—known as vicarious trauma—is an inevitable occupational challenge for the fields of victim services, emergency medical services, fire services, law enforcement, and other allied professionals; however, organizations can mitigate the potentially negative effects of trauma exposure. The VTT includes tools and resources, tailored specifically to these fields, that provide the knowledge and skills necessary for organizations to address the vicarious trauma needs of their staff.


  • Preparing For The Unimaginable offers expert advice and practical tips for helping officers to heal emotionally, manage the public, deal with the media, and build relationships with other first responder agencies after a mass violence incident.  The publication was created by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) Office based on their work with the Newtown (Connecticut) Police Department after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting.


  • The Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program (PSOB) provides death and education benefits to the survivors of fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders, and disability benefits to officers catastrophically injured in the line of duty, including as a result of participating in response efforts to large-scale incidents.


We encourage your agency to revisit existing response protocols regularly, revising as necessary.  Dealing with a mass casualty incident is never easy for responders or for the affected community; however, through planning, preparation, and practice, you can help mitigate the impact of trauma, not only to victims and their families, but to your first responders.  As always, BJA NTTAC stands ready to assist communities as they develop and revise their emergency plans and address other public safety concerns. 


If your jurisdiction needs training or technical assistance, please contact BJA NTTAC at and we can connect you to the appropriate training, assistance, TTA partner, and/or resources.

If you are interested in submitting the work of your organization or jurisdiction for consideration in a future TTA blog post, please email us at

Points of view or opinions on BJA NTTAC’s TTA blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice, BJA, or BJA NTTAC.