Exercise Target Red: Active Shooter & Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) Exercise

Our work on the development of our third exercise - Exercise Target Red - is going ahead as planned and we are on schedule to hold the exercise at JIBC on June 11th 2014. Exercise Target Red includes an active shooter scenario.

Multi-casualty incidents (MCI), by definition, involve multiple casualties, often include deaths and injuries, and are traumatic for casualties, their families and friends and the responders themselves. When the MCI is based on criminal activities, the area becomes a crime scene and all those involved in the MCI become potential witnesses and may also include the perpetrators of the MCI.

Typically, once the situation is safe and the wounded have been provided with medical care, the police sequester all potential witnesses, and then interview each person individually. Prior to the interview potential witnesses are asked not to talk to each other in order not to contaminate the evidence. Past research has demonstrated that this period of seclusion increases anxiety in casualties and the likelihood of negative post-trauma reactions. Further studies, have suggested that providing minimal psychosocial interventions prior to, or in conjunction with, the police interview may decrease witness stress levels and maximize the potential opportunities for the police to receive clear, cohesive accounts of what took place.

The Simulation Training and Exercise Collaboratory (SIMTEC) project researchers at JIBC have been working to developing a collaborative protocol which engages both police and victims’ services workers/psychosocial personnel. It is based on research findings which explore the role of Psychological First Aid in reducing anxiety and trauma in those persons affected by a traumatic incident. The research project is focused on reducing anxiety, avoiding contamination of evidence/witness statements, and providing police officers with opportunities to receive better structured, more coherent and valuable information from casualties.

Additionally, there is significant research which reinforces the importance of targeted messaging to families and friends of casualties and assisting police officers in managing convergent populations so as to enable them to focus on the more critical issues as they unfold in extended situations. The SIMTEC research team is developing strategies and protocols for psychosocial personnel to use, in conjunction with the police, to reduce anxiety in families and friends and to prepare them for reunification with witnesses/casualties.

A final issue for researchers is to seek mechanisms to provide casualties with means of contacting each other, post-event, for the purposes of benefitting from group support therapy – a treatment which is often essential in helping casualties come to understanding what has happened to them and allowing them to move forward in their healing process. It has also been found important for rescuers and rescues to meet post-event to facilitate their healing. Currently, health and other privacy protocols do not facilitate the reunification of MCI casualties and/or rescuers after an event.

Researchers are looking for means to share personal information in order to provide casualties with an opportunity to participate in a facilitated therapeutic group support meeting, through an acceptable professional.

The exercise will be a table top exercise and will not be based on the tactical or operational aspects of the scenario. Rather, the exercise will require participants to strategize and plan for the handling of families and friends, communication messaging, managing the casualties as they are evacuated from the complex and arranging for witness interviews. The relevant operational/tactical aspects of the exercise will be released to the participants as the exercise unfolds. Thus, the operational aspects will provide the setting for the application of the protocols and materials which will have been developed.

In order to ensure that the exercise scenario is realistic we greatly appreciate all of the help we have received from members of our Expert Working Group - representatives from Vancouver Police Department, the RCMP, Emergency Health Services, New Westminster Fire Department, Victims Services, Disaster Psychosocial Services, ECOMM, the Forensic Alliance, Cadillac Fairview, Provincial Health Services, BCIT, JIBC staff, and a retired prosecuter, a psychologist and past coroner.

If you would like more information, don't hesitate to contact us!

Laurie Pearce


This project received funding from the Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP), a federal program led by Defence Research and Development Canada, in partnership with Public Safety Canada.

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