Saturday, July 9, 2016

HR 5643 Introduced – Active Shooter

Earlier this week Rep. Duckworth (D,IL) introduced HR 5643, the Active Shooter Preparedness Enhancement Act of 2016. The bill outlines DHS responsibilities for assisting State and local governments and the private sector develop active shooter preparedness plans.

Preparedness Response

Section 2 of the bill would add a new section to the Homeland Security Act of 2002; Sec. 890B. Active shooter and mass casualty incident response assistance. It would require DHS to develop guidance “to assist in the development of emergency action and response plans for active shooter and mass casualty incidents in public and private locations, including facilities that have been identified by the Department as potentially vulnerable targets” {new §809B(a)}. The guidance would include {new §809B(a)}:

• A strategy for properly responding to an active shooter or mass casualty incident in a public or private location;
• A plan for establishing a unified command;
• A schedule for regular testing of equipment used to receive communications during such an incident;
• A practiced method and plan to communicate with occupants of such location during such an incident;
• A practiced method and plan to communicate with the surrounding community regarding such an incident;
• A plan for coordinating with volunteer organizations to expedite assistance for victims;
• A schedule for joint exercises and training;
• A plan for outreach to facilities that have been identified by the Department as potentially vulnerable targets; and
• Other planning documents, as determined by the Secretary.


Section 3 of the bill amends 6 USC 607(a)(2) to add “training exercises to enhance preparedness for and response to mass casualty and active shooter incidents and security events at public and private locations” {new §607(a)(2)(E)} to the list of law enforcement terrorism prevention activities for which grants are authorized under the Urban Area Security Initiative and State Homeland Security grant programs.

Section 4 of the bill amends 6 USC 608(b) by adding “Active shooters” {new §608(b)(9)} to the list of threats that DHS takes into account in prioritizing Urban Area Security Initiative and State Homeland Security grant allocations.

No new funding is provided in the bill.

Moving Forward

Duckworth is not a member of any of the three committees (Homeland Security, Judiciary, and Transportation and Infrastructure) to which this bill was assigned for consideration. This means that, especially this late in the session, it is unlikely that the bill will receive consideration in any of these committees unless she convinces people in the committee leaderships to co-sponsor the bill.

There is nothing in the language of this bill that would raise any organized opposition to the bill. If it were to make it to the floor for the vote, it would likely do so under the under suspension of the rules provisions and pass with solid bipartisan support.


I will start out with a by now familiar comment about the grant portions of the bill. The bill would expand the number of potential grants without expanding the amount of money available to share with State and local authorities. This means that the number of other grants available would have to be reduced or the amounts monies in the other grants would be reduced. This type of legislative grant dilution is political grandstanding.

The other thing wrong with this bill is not unique to Duckworth’s approach. I have yet to see any serious discussion of the unique problems that chemical storage brings to the active shooter situation. I have talked to a senior police officer with a major municipal police force who had responsibilities for responding to active shooter and terrorist incidents at a major refinery. No one had explained to him the potentially catastrophic problems that could arise if his police started shooting on the refinery grounds.

Given the fact that various hazardous chemicals are found in a wide variety of industrial facilities (NOT just chemical plants) any requirement for a strategy for active shooter incidents at industrial facilities is going to have to start with an assessment of the potential chemical hazards that could be encountered at the facility.

It is just as important that emergency response personnel (police, fire and emergency medical technician) that could respond to an active shooter event at a facility that stores hazardous chemicals be informed of the hazards associated with the chemical and their locations in the facility. Additionally, medical facilities that could be accepting and treating casualties from such events need to be informed of the potential hazardous chemicals with which casualties could be contaminated, both for the safety of the medical facility and staff as well as needing to be prepared to treat the chemical injuries that could result from chemical releases during active shooter events.

With that in mind, I would insert a new paragraph (b) to the section being added by §2 of the bill {and change the current paragraph (b) to paragraph (c)}:

(b) Strategy guidelines for facilities that store industrial chemicals:

(1)   In developing an active shooter strategy, all industrial facilities will first develop an assessment of the hazardous chemicals stored at the facility. That assessment will include a listing of:
A.    Each hazardous chemical stored at the facility;
B.     The quantity of each hazardous chemical identified in (A) above; and
C.     The location of each place in the facility where the chemicals identified in (A) above are produced, used, or stored.
(2)   The facility will determine the potential hazards associated with each of the chemicals identified in (1) above. At a minimum the facility will determine the potential consequences of multiple punctures of storage containers of each of the chemicals listed in (1) above, including:
A.    The potential for fires and explosions,
B.  The potential for, and extent of, a toxic atmosphere,
C.  The potential for the formation of an oxygen deficient atmosphere, and
D.  The potential for the mixing of incompatible chemicals and the hazards associated with such mixing;
(3)   The facility will also determine the areas of a facility where the potential for a flammable atmosphere might be expected to exist during normal operations; and
(4)   The facility will also determine the areas of a facility where the potential for an oxygen deficient atmosphere might normally be expected to exist.
(5)   The information developed in (1) thru (4) above will be listed as annexes to facility strategy for properly responding to an active shooter or mass casualty incident.

(6)   Definition: In this section the term ‘hazardous chemical’ will include, at a minimum, all of the chemicals listed in §112(r) of the Clean Air Act {42 USC 7412(b)}. This definition does not prohibit a facility owner/operator from adding chemicals to the hazardous chemical list when, in the opinion of the owner/operator, the added chemical presents a potential hazard to employees or the environment if released during an active shooter event.

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