Confronting the Active Shooter: What Factors Affect Survivability?


Mass-Casualty Incidents (MCIs) represent a disproportionately small contingent of all life-threatening emergencies within the U.S. and at a global scale. In the U.S., one is much more likely to find themselves in mortal peril due to traffic, heart disease, or another decidedly pedestrian threat. However, the public’s eye is drawn at an equally disproportionate level to the chaos of Mass-Casualty Incidents. Catastrophes known colloquially as “active shooter” a term that is not exceedingly well-defined but is generally understood to include incidents of multiple shootings at workplaces, terrorist attacks, and lone, deranged gunman slaughtering as many as possible in schools, entertainment venues, shopping centers, or in public spaces are generally understood to meet this definition, and such attacks typically dominate the news cycle for a significant period of time. This could be attributed, perhaps, to humanity’s “morbid curiosity.” Not all MCIs are active shooter scenarios, however. Several incidents in previous years have occurred in which attackers have used vehicles to attack the public, sometimes resulting in significant casualties. MCIs are not categorized by a common attacker profile, the motivation, a strategy of attack, the duration of planning involved, nor the choice of weapon(s). Rather, the common thread is the occurrence of the attack on members of the public with the aim to inflict maximum harm, chaos, and casualties.

In this paper, we theorize that a diverse range of circumstances generally affect the outcome of MCIs in the United States. Outcome, in this case, is defined as the magnitude of the damage inflicted on the public. Using openly available data, such as that from the FBI, we tested several perceptible variables at play during a range of MCIs that have occurred within the past decades with the aim of deciphering common threads that aided or hampered survivability. We also discuss the state of MCI preparedness in the US, articulating what the strongest working strategies are and where they are being implemented. We discuss the evolution of MCI preparation and analysis within the academic community and suggest which components of science could become involved in ways in which they are not. Finally, we extrapolate our discussion to foreign nations that suffer significantly from MCIs especially due to terrorism. Here we find a vacuum of available data, specifically geocoding, but also thorough incident catalogs. We offer suggestions as to what information would aid the hazard mitigation stage of the Emergency Management Lifecycle in developing regions of the world. More information can be found regarding data deficits in paper #3 of this project, entitled Confronting the Active Shooter: What are the Global Implications?

Background: Why Discuss Mass-Casualty IncidentsUnder One Umbrella?

Although attention has been turned to some of the factors associated with some MCIs (such as the psychological profile of criminals in general or the disposition of terrorists) little effort has been made to address, through scientific inquiry, what strategies are best employed throughout the Emergency Management Lifecycle to reduce the magnitude of harm incurred during MCIs through data-driven approaches. Although proportionally small in comparison to the harm caused by other common threats such as disease, (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) MCIs, as a hazard, nonetheless dominate our news cycle and inflict significant fear on the general public. But why describe such incidents as MCIs specifically, and is our chosen term sufficiently descriptive to be productive in narrowing our efforts to understand this phenomenon? Essentially, what is the purpose behind holistically clustering all efforts to kill and maim members of the public in confined spaces under a single definition, rather than using different, unrelated descriptors, such as terrorist attack, active shooter, etc.? Our reasoning lies in how emergency services, and the public at large, prepare to mitigate the magnitude and severity of such incidents. To use examples to illustrate our point, terrorist attacks, such as the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, and attacks known as “active shooter” such as the 1999 Columbine Massacre in the United States, differ in motive and ideology of the attackers, but share the common thread that is relevant to law enforcement, emergency medical providers, safety planners, and security professionals: the presence of individuals killing members of the public at random in confined spaces necessitates a specific response protocol and presumably such incidents could be productively analyzed to enhance such protocols. Discussing these incidents under a common denominator focuses attention on the crucial factors affecting survivability for members of the public during such incidents. Additionally, it combats the coinciding sensationalism and disproportionate fear with specific data based on relevant cases rather than including mass-casualty incidents that would be better classified as gang related crime. But why not simply call these incidents “active shooter” why specifically call them mass-casualty incidents? To further utilize examples, the Nice truck attacker, in Islamist-inspired attacker, killed 86 members of the public on the promenade of Nice, France during the Bastille day celebrations of 2016. Also in 2016, an enraged former employee of a care home in Sahamihara, Japan, killed 19 civilians with knives. To state the blatantly obvious, firearms are not involved in all incidents in which members of the public are attacked at random in confined spaces. Nonetheless, the efforts undertaken at all stages of the Emergency Management Lifecycle, including preparedness and response, mirror one-another regardless of the weapon or motive involved.  In short, identifying intentional MCIs as one type of event would allow for specific and relevant evidence collection, analysis, and therefore, evidence-based interventions which will improve upon current practices and, in turn, may save lives. In fact, professionals in the security sector are already discussing such incidents holistically, but as we discuss below, sphere of peer-reviewed literature has only referenced MCIs in passing during endeavors in other subjects. 

The adoption of the term “mass-casualty incident” is not a novel development of this paper. Many emergency services and providers have already adopted this term. The after-action report for the 2017 Las Vegas shooting specifically utilizes the term “mass-casualty incident” to refer to such events and notably excludes a definition, presumably because the term is significantly understood within the industry (FEMA). We advocate for one additional descriptor to the term to provide additional clarity. We suggest describing such incidents as IntentionalMass-Casualty Incidents. We reason that there is significant difference in response protocol to MCIs based on whether or not the incidents are intentional to warrant such a descriptor: In the event of an accidental train crash, for example, emergency medical services take priority and may move freely with (typically) minimal concern to other hazards. In the case of Intentional Mass-Casualty Incidents, such as a jihadist-inspired stabbing, emergency services must communicate the presence of an ongoing, active threat to avoid putting unarmed medical responders into a scenario in which they themselves could become further casualties. For these reasons, the distinction between an MCI and an Intentional Mass-Casualty Incident (IMCI) is significant, and this paper will describe such incidents as IMCI’s. We use this term somewhat interchangeably with Active Shooter, because this term is widely known to denote a potential mass-casualty incident that is intentionally caused by armed attacker(s). The productive definition of such incidents is not a semantic discussion. If the media were to begin communicating with the public using the same, accurate, descriptive, non-sensational terminology, the public, first responders, and experts in emergency preparedness would be one step closer to “communicating in the same language”. This would support evidence-based interventions. As we conclude later in this project, civilian or victim intervention in IMCIs has a significant impact on their outcomes. 


            We theorize that a measurable reduction in harm caused by intentional mass-casualty incidents could be realized by holistically approaching such incidents as one subject and inclusively initiating a multi-tiered effort to understand the factors that influence life or death in these circumstances. Such an effort would foster cohesive, evidence-based interventions, enhance security planning, and ultimately result in reduced harm from events we describe here as Intentional Mass-Casualty Incidents. We also recognize that, while the U.S. news cycle is dominated by domestic instances of mass-casualty incidents, a great deal of trauma and loss of life is inflicted outside of our borders. In fact, even a cursory look at the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database illuminates the sheer scale of loss of life caused by mass-casualty incidents on a daily basis occurring in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and other locations. Although we fully acknowledge that none of the limited testing we have conducted here is likely to produce any meaningful results for law enforcement communities in these regions (because our testing was neither complete nor exhaustive) we hope to foster a discussion on the topic in general and advocate strongly for a more holistic approach to comprehending the factors that affect survivability in such incidents in diverse regions. A significant impediment to the type of testing we have conducted here is the absence of specifically categorized and accurate data. Wherever possible, we have included discussions into what data we would like to see publicly available that would have allowed us to analyze survivability during MCIs in remote or developing regions.

Literature Discussion

In conducting our study, we explored several realms of existing literature to determine to what degree efforts have been undertaken to ascertain what factors influence how MCIs progress and how many casualties they produce. We utilize the field of emergency management and explore introductory works on the topic in order to refine terminology and operationalize our concepts. In discussing previous efforts to understand the motivations of mass killers, we turn to several authors on the topic of terrorism. Lastly, to discuss MCIs and active shooter incidents in particular, we turn to a relatively narrow field of existing literature on the topic that nonetheless pulls experts from diverse realms, including law enforcement, epidemiologists, and defense analysis studies. 

  1. Emergency Management as a Foundation of Study 

The foundation of any effort to comprehend mass-casualty incidents lies in recognizing that MCIs are emergencies, and emergencies (and the preparation that addresses them) are fairly well categorized and understood in the nascent field of emergency management. MCIs are understood to be emergencies because they meet the definition set forth in a seminal introductory work on the topic, Introduction to Emergency Management, 1st edition. (Lindall Et Al.) The definition of an emergency given is “an imminent event that is likely to cause large damage or high casualties” while in progress, mass-casualty incidents meet this definition. When they are completed, given sufficient damage they may even meet the definition of a catastrophe, or: “an event which produces more losses than a community can handle, requiring assistance from outside agencies.”  In Introduction to Emergency Management, authors Lindall, Prater, and Perry articulate a process known as the Emergency Management (EM) Lifecycle. The EM lifecycle is broken into four distinct phases of addressing both hazards and emergencies. The first two phases, mitigationand preparation, occur prior to a projected emergency. In the case of man-made catastrophes, mitigation may take the form of installing keyless locks on all the doors of a public school or office building, thus reducing the likelihood of an attack being successful, while preparation may take the form of providing basic bleeding-control training to members of the public, thereby reducing the severity of an incident by saving human life. The second two phases of the EM lifecycle include response and recovery. The response phase to a man-made catastrophe may include the dispatch of emergency services, especially tactical teams capable of suppressing active killers, and the call-up of additional trauma surgeons and nurses to nearby medical care centers. The recovery phase begins when the incident ends, and focuses on rebuilding a community affected by a disaster to its previous state. It may hold special focus on psychological care for victims. 

The general phases of the emergency management lifecycle outlined above may prove valuable for emergency planners preparing for diverse hazards, but in order to find literature specifically related to man-made catastrophes from the emergency management sector, one must look directly to government agencies tasked with protecting the public. In Planning and Response to an Active Shooter, authors from the Department of Homeland Security outline the now widely-distributed mantra of run, hide, fight, a strategy to improve survival among members of the public during IMCI’s. (DHS) Alongside this strategy, Homeland also displays recent trends in comprehending and predicting attacker profiles and advises on the steps to integrate local planning efforts into national emergency planning doctrine. These efforts are useful and provide a strong baseline of emergency preparedness for the average business or school, but they are limited entirely by their lack of cogent, data-driven and tested solutions on what actually constitutes best practice for this specific set of emergencies. In short, the contributions from the emergency management sector form a framework for emergency planning, but offer only general strategies for reducing the potential harm caused by mass casualty incidents.

Pictured: The Emergency Management Lifecycle

  1. Contributing Efforts from Authors on Terrorism

Efforts have been undertaken that have indirectly contributed to understanding the underlying processes that contribute to man-made catastrophes, particularly in the domains of literature on terrorism and criminology. In Terrorism, Communication, and New Media, Cristina Archetti analyses the internal narratives of terrorist actors, some of which conducted mass-casualty incidents. She enumerates the concept of Fictive Kin, the notion that terrorists may consider themselves bonded to group ideologies with which they may not have had personal contact. (Archetti) Her conclusions can be viewed as a positive contribution to efforts to understand what motivates terrorists to commit violent actions by exploring the narratives of terrorists and how they dovetail with the narratives of terrorist groups. Such conclusions can be helpful when developing a holistic approach to IMCIs. For example, a component of the mitigation phase of the Emergency Management Lifecycle includes identifying the characteristics of potential attackers and intervening when their behavior reaches critical mass, such as when they begin to acquire weapons. Insight’s such as Archetti’s may form a bedrock for a robust framework that aids law enforcement and security services in identifying these possible attackers. 

There are, however, substantial limitations to a heavy reliance on psychological profiles in predicting the behavior of attackers during the mitigation phase. In Understanding Terrorist Behavior, The Limits and Opportunities of Psychological Inquiry, Walter Reich reminds us that psychologists have been over-queried to provide generalized answers to the question of what motivates terrorists, and he cautions us from providing “catch-all” descriptions of the psychological profile of terrorists, a process he calls generalization. Reich does, however, offer useful insights into the reward cycle of terror groups, illuminating the reality of how committing acts of violence can appeal to individuals of specific profiles (Reich). Once again, Reich’s contribution may be of nominal use to agencies during the prevention and mitigation phases, with the strong caveat that there are substantial and intractable limits to psychology’s approach to comprehending the behavior of terrorists. 

Terrorism and mass-casualty incidents, ultimately, are not one and the same. Terrorists are non-state actors who commit mass-casualty incidents. A great deal of IMCIs are not committed by politically motivated actors, and these often uncategorized “active shooter” scenarios go un-scrutinized by literature focused on terrorism. This serves to illustrate the urgency of a cohesive term such as IMCI: The terrorism discussed by Archetti and Reich, and the Active-Shooter scenarios discussed by Homeland Security and other public safety agencies, share common themes which, when discussed cohesively, may yield fruitful results that could ultimately lead to additional life-saving measures. 

  1. Additional Literature Discussion 

            In “Lethality of Civilian Active Shooter Incidents With and Without Semiautomatic Rifles in the United States” Jager et. al. compares the rates of killed, wounded, and killed and wounded in MCIs throughout the US, using the FBI’s Active Shooter Database based on the presence or absence of a semi automatic rifle (a rifle designed to fire a single bullet with each press of the trigger). After a fairly exhaustive review of peer-reviewed literature using Western Michigan University’s library database, using a range of related search terms, Jager et. al. is tantamount to the only scientific effort we have found that endeavors to examine what discrete factors actually influence the outcome, in terms of casualties, of MCIs. Still, there are significant limitations to the methodology present, some of which is discussed and some of which is glossed over. Jager et. al. indicates that the data provided by the FBI is limited and does not include, for example, the nature of injuries per incident, but the paper’s discussion is not in depth. For instance, many of the incidents in the FBI catalogue are one-off workplace violence events involving a common civilian weapon such as a shotgun or handgun. It is entirely possible that it is the degree of planning associated with MCIs that results in both the acquisition of a semi-automatic rifle and the production of higher casualties, rather than strict causality between the presence of such a weapon and the number of casualties produced. Essentially, a sampling bias is present. Indeed, considering that Jager et. al.’s research is the only available discussion on what factors influence lethality in a range of incidents that cause significant psychological harm to the public at large, it is concerning that the “discussion” portion of the paper is only 134 words long. One facet of the discussion mentioned by this paper is highly clear, however: There is an alarming gap in the literature on MCIs, even as events continue to occur at an alarming frequency. 

Testing & Methodology

            Our aim was to compare the magnitude or severity of mass casualty incidents with various potential cofactors that have the capacity to influence human survivability. To do so, we exclusively compared an incident catalogue created by the FBI (entitled: Active Shooter Incidents in the United States from 2000-2018 and available at to an array of potential cofactors. In some cases, we narrowed the range from all incidents to a subset of incidents, such as attacks occurring at educational facilities, or only the most recent attacks. Because the data presented by the FBI is in paragraph format, we tabulated it into an Excel Spreadsheet for easier analysis and the production of charts and graphs present below. We do not intend for our testing to by comprehensive and we acknowledge that there are potentially countless “x-axis” variables we could test against casualties. We discuss many of these possible tests later on and hope that other research groups can continue these efforts. Our goal was to provide meaningful insight into the available data while exploring territory that is largely absent from the existing body of literature. 

Test I: Casualties in Recent Incidents vs. Distance to Law Enforcement 

Our first test (fig. 1) compares the number of casualties produced by active shooter incidents to the distance, in miles, by road, to the nearest police station. In this test as well as all others, we defined “casualties” as the total number of killed and wounded. We counted the shooter among those killed if the shooter did not survive the incident. To collect our data, we sampled the FBI’s catalogue entitled “Active Shooter Incidents in the United States from 2000-2018” We worked backwards from the most recent incident (occurring on 12/24/18) to the 33rd from most recent incident, occurring on 11/14/17. We then geocoded the locations of the incidents by searching for the locations provided by the FBI on Google Maps. When the information provided by the FBI was not sufficient to determine the exact location, we provided a media content analysis to ascertain the exact location. Next, we used the Google Maps search feature to locate the police station nearest in geographic proximity to the incident site. After we removed all incidents with an uncertain location, we were left 22 incidents. The distance in miles from police stations ranged from 7.6 miles to only 0.2 miles. After all of this effort, only 22 of the remaining 33 incidents had sufficient data to warrant inclusion. Of our 22 incidents, 13 occurred less than 4 miles from the nearest police station and produced less than ten total casualties (killed and wounded). The highest casualty incident occurred less than two miles from a police station, and two incidents occurring over six miles from a police station produced less than ten casualties. 

            Fig. 1 shows our results, and it is clear that the location of the nearest police station has no significant bearing on casualty production during mass casualty incidents. We recognize that our testing is neither complete nor representative of all MCIs occurring in the United States. Our data collection was limited to the FBI’s active shooter catalogue, which may have failed to record some or many relevant incidents, and explicitly excludes MCIs not committed with firearms. We also included only 22 of a total of 277 incidents in the FBI database and a more complete analysis could potentially yield different results. We also recognize that there were flaws in our basic assumption: Police departments operate on a mobile response protocol which means that officers responding to 911 calls are likely to arrive from their mobile patrol cars along designated routes, rather than arrive from their police station. In short, this simple test is nowhere near conclusive and yielded no immediately actionable results. Our goal was to establish a first foray into the testing and analysis of MCIs against a range of potential cofactors in an open-ended search for useful intelligence that can, in the future, inform policy to protect human life.

Fig. 1


Test II: Casualties in Education Incidents vs. End of Incident Type 

            Our second test (fig. 2) compared the total casualties in all incidents occurring at an educational facility (N=57) with the way in which the incident ended. The FBI included information on whether law enforcement killed or subdued the shooter, civilians did the same, or if the shooter killed him/herself and whether or not this occurred as the police arrived or well before. We coded this as “end of incident type” with the following categories: AOSC (Arrested on site by civilians) AASP (arrested by police after fleeing the site) KOSC (Killed on site by civilians) AOSP (Arrested on site by police) KOSP (Killed on site by police) SU (suicide), SUAP (Suicide after police arrival or as police arrival was imminent), and SUAC (Suicide after civilian intervention). Our goal was to determine if the arrival of police, or civilian intervention, typically resulted in a reduction in casualties, or if it made no difference in the outcome of the situation whether police or civilians intervened or if the shooter ended his own attack by suicide. The FBI database provided sufficient anecdotal information to distinguish between SU and SUAP, and we reasoned that this distinction was valid for our purposes because shooters may commit suicide as police arrive when they otherwise would have continued killing, thus reducing the lethality of the incident. 

Fig. 2

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated

Fig. 2 compares all of the possible end of incident codes with the casualties produced by each incident type. Some of the data produced by this chart is significantly influenced by outliers. By far the most casualty-producing end of incident code is SUAP (suicide, after or upon arrival of police) (Average 19.13 casualties per incident) This is largely because of the 1st and 3rd most casualty-producing incidents (Virginia Tech, 56 casualties, and Sandy Hook 29 casualties) and the fact that this particular incident code included only 8 total instances. When we control for these two instances by removing them, the average casualties by all incidents ending with the code SUAP becomes 11.3. A potentially valuable pattern emerges upon further examination of the trends in this data: By far the least lethal incidents were the ones in which civilians played a direct role in stopping the attack. The total average number of casualties for all incidents examined is 7.19, however the average casualties for incidents coded as AOSC (apprehended on site by civilians) is 2.9, (N=20/59) while the average casualties produced by incidents coded as SUAC (Suicide upon intervention by civilians) is 3.0 (N=3/59). This finding is congruent with the position of Lieutenant Colonel (Retired)  Dave Grossman (Grossman, D. & Fairburne, R. Preparing for School Attacks)a pre-eminent author on the psychology of human violence (See: On Killing, 1995)  who argues that active shooters are primarily selecting targets based on their inability to fight back, and thus any confrontation, even if it is disorganized, is the urgent impetus of responders to active shooter incidents. This strategy is laid out in detail in a report entitled “Rapid Deployment as a Response to an Active Shooter Incident” published by the Illinois State Police Department in 2003. The report reminds us that, in the wake of the tragic Columbine High School Shooting, which left 13 dead, officers swore to “never again wait for S.W.A.T.” Indeed, Law Enforcement agencies in the wake of Columbine developed a compendium of tactics that advocated the rapid deployment of the first officers on the scene of an MCI. The National Tactical Officers Association defines rapid deployment as, “The immediate deployment of law enforcement resources to life-threatening situations where the delay in such deployment could result in death and/or great bodily harm to persons.” However, other authors remind us that, despite the best intentions of law enforcement to deploy as rapidly as possible to confront active threats, there is often substantial lag time between the average response time and the average incident duration, leading to a period in which attackers can kill without interruption (Ergenbright & Hubbard). The findings above may illustrate the point that rapid intervention by civilians (who are already present at the scene) has the best chance of reducing total casualties. 

Test III: Casualties in All Incidents vs. Occurrence of Civilian Intervention

            In order to further explore the relationship between civilian intervention (which will almost always be faster than police intervention due to the presence of victims on the scene by definition, thus addressing the critical lag time between law enforcement rapid deployment and average incident duration) and casualties, we coded all incidents in the FBI Active Shooter Catalog from 2000 to 2018. (N=277) and coded each incident based on whether or not civilian intervention was a factor in the result of the incident. Our findings are illustrated in fig. 3 below: 

Fig. 3


Incidents in which no civilian intervention had an average casualty count of 9.71, while those in which civilian intervention was a factor have an average casualty rate of 3.91. While we acknowledge methodological challenges in this test, it was sufficient to warrant its own, thorough discussion. For further review, see our second paper, Confronting the Active Shooter: Does Civilian Intervention Make a Difference?  

Preparing for MCIs in Developing Regions

If Emergency Management as a professional field has reached adolescence in the United States, it is still under neonatal care in developing regions. Tragically, mass-casualty incidents are a favored strategy of terrorist groups in diverse regions, often targeted at high-population areas such as shopping malls or other public spaces, and these attacks present an immense challenge to the security forces of still-developing nations, who may be less trained and equipped than their counterparts in the U.S. or Europe. These events are devastating in both casualty production as well as frequency. The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center’s Worldwide Incident Tracking System (NCTC WITS) catalogued nearly 23,000 incidents in Iraq alone between 2004-2009, which were the subject of a relevant study that drew broad conclusions regarding patterns of terrorist attacks (Watts). The study drew valuable conclusions that maintained strategic implications for the U.S. mission in Iraq: They discovered that the spatial distribution of terrorist attacks reacted organically to changes in U.S. force deployment, often weakening in response to coalition troop surges and intensifying in other areas. Watts’ study examines the metadata of MCIs in Iraq grouped by the WITS and identified valuable patterns that could be useful to policymakers and military commanders. Various other efforts have examined the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database and other incident catalogues to draw broad conclusions. At this time and to the best knowledge of the authors of this paper, however, no effort has been undertaken to examine various cofactors that may affect survivability during such incidents in a method similar to the exploratory testing conducted above. 

Such efforts may be monumental, but not impossible. Here, we suggest some feasible research projects that could be undertaken by teams willing to follow the thread at which we are pulling. 

  1. Analyzing demographic and geographic factors in worldwide MCIs

In an effort to interpret the effects that terrain, urbanization, and population density could have on the severity of individual MCIs, the authors suggest the tabulating of publicly available information on terrorist attacks committed in urban areas during the past 1-2 decades (a temporal frame in which police tactics have evolved to meet 21st century challenges) and comparing the total casualty rate to particular variables such as: population density at the attack site (with a predetermined range, such as 5 square miles), proximity to emergency medical care, total metropolitan square area (to ascertain whether it is likely that urbanization plays a role in casualty production – one could also test the variable “percentage of impregnable surface,” or concrete). If such effort were undertaken to tabulate and geocode a statistically significant batch of recent incidents, it would be logical to develop and test a host of variables, only some of which we have mentioned here. Some challenges to this line of questioning would result from determining which incidents are appropriate for inclusion – it would be important to set strict parameters for incident inclusion based on a robust and well-defined working definition. It would also be crucial not to develop a sampling bias based on the availability of data. For example, could one truly conclude that MCIs are more catastrophic in highly urbanized areas, when more remote regions might have less data, but nonetheless suffer from devastating attacks? The working definition of MCIs is fairly clear-cut in the U.S. and Europe, but becomes more challenging to define in developing regions. It is our instinct to include incidents such as the well-publicised 2014 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping orchestrated by Boko Haram, and other such attacks by the ISIS-inspired Nigerian terror group, in this category, but the reality is that such attacks may not be productively analyzed alongside attacks that occur under entirely different circumstances, such as the aforementioned 2016 attack in Nice, France conducted by ISIS-inspired jihadis. Nonetheless, we urge interested parties to continue our nascent work in defining, categorizing, and analyzing MCIs.

  1. Interpreting the role of international security cooperation in mitigating the threat of  worldwide MMCs. 

A detailed case study of perhaps a dozen particular incidents could yield valuable insights into what, if any, role that international cooperation has played in the actual tactics employed by the security forces during MCIs worldwide. Of particular interest could be a detailed review of incident reports, such as those for the 2008 Mumbai attack perpetrated by Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the 2013 Nairobi Mall attack perpetrated by Al-Shabaab, which could then be compared to a detailed analysis of that country’s previous security assistance with the aim of determining if any visible successful action was taken on the part of the local security forces as a direct result of foreign security assistance. Such incident reports are sometimes public, and sometimes they are not. It is conceivable that such a project would best be achieved by a research team that is already well-connected in the security industry, such as a group pursuing advanced degrees at U.S. or U.K. military academies. These researchers may be in a good position to request documents, including after-action reports, from law enforcement agencies in developing countries with which the U.S. has a strong relationship. The Ergenbright and Hubbard study discussed here benefited strongly from the military background of the authors, who were able to negotiate significant access to U.S. and Finnish Law Enforcement reports, facilities, and interviews. 

  1. Creating a worldwide database as a partnership between international law-enforcement agencies and humanities programs. 

            Not so much an academic project as an ambitious endeavor of social entrepreneurship, a specific, focused, continuous, and collaborative effort could be undertaken between global law-enforcement agencies and university programs in Criminology and Global Studies to catalog, track, analyze, and participate in the prevention of MCIs. Such a partnership should focus on the inclusion of host-nation law enforcement, could provide avenues for mutual experience-sharing and capacity building, and could improve cooperation between governments and universities while also strengthening multilateral security initiatives. An annual conference could be held and include stakeholders from diverse sectors and geographic regions during which annual priorities are established and emerging trends and discoveries could be discussed. Contrary to other multilateral security initiatives that are hampered by divergent geostrategic interests, a collaborative effort to address MCIs is likely to draw broad support from nearly every UN member state, and ultimately improve international cooperation.


A diverse range of hazards, some old and some newly emergent, have presented themselves to human populations in the 21st century. Among these are disease, climate change, economic instability, freedom of access to information, the lack of education, disregard for human rights, the threat of natural disasters, the possibility of war, WMD proliferation, especially among rogue states, acute food insecurity, a looming energy crisis, drought, especially climate-change induced drought, terrorism, state terrorism, state-sponsored terrorism, mass-migration, nationalism, and ongoing war in developing regions. This list could go on and on and still forget countless critical issues different populations face. Nevertheless, even if we were able to list all of these problems, their many solutions are beyond complex and perhaps unreasonable to even attempt to consider.

Some of these hazards present outright threats to human existence on a local or global scale, such as a disease outbreak or food insecurity, while others present more covert threats to humanity’s future, such as our perceptions of the freedom to access information. Some hazards achieve parity in both of these categories, such as climate change. Some dovetail neatly to mutually contribute to one another, such as climate change inducing drought, in turn inducing migration, thus contributing to the rise of nationalist clamors for war.  Significant academic attention has been mobilized to understand a broad array of humanity’s hazards. Terrorism, in particular, has garnered significant attention, and has produced analysis from diverse fields such as psychology, sociology, developmental economics, and political science. Emergency Management, as an academic field, comes closest to offering strategies for addressing MCIs, but provides only limited research or ongoing queries into which strategies at the local level work best, offering rather a general series of preparatory steps that allow communities to prepare for diverse emergencies. 

Collaboration will become the touchstone phrase of “third millennium” social entrepreneurs who endeavor to engineer innovative solutions to interconnected global challenges. In this paper, we have attempted to bridge the gap between informed communities of security professionals and academics, who have much information to mutually contribute to addressing one small but important segment of the challenges facing the human population: Intentional Mass-Casualty Incidents. 


“1 October After-Action Report” The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Aug. 24th, 2018.

“Deaths and Mortality for the U.S.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2017.

Ergenbright, Charles E., & Hubbard, Sean K. “Defeating the Active Shooter: Applying Facility Upgrades in Order to Mitigate the Effects of Active Shooters in High Occupancy Facilities” Jun. 2012, Naval Postgraduate School, M.S. Dissertation

Fairburn, R., & Grossman, D., “Preparing for School Attacks.” The Police Marksman, Nov/Dec 2006.

Jager, Elzerie De, et al. “Lethality of Civilian Active Shooter Incidents With and Without Semiautomatic Rifles in the United States.” Jama, vol. 320, no. 10, Nov. 2018, p. 1034., doi:10.1001/jama.2018.11009.

Lindell, Michael K., et al. Introduction to Emergency Management. Wiley, 2007.

“Planning and Response to an Active Shooter: An Interagency Security Committee Policy and Best Practices Guide” The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Interagency Security Committee, Nov. 2015.

“Rapid Deployment as a Response to an Active Shooter Incident.” Illinois State Police Academy, 2003.

“Tactical Response and Operations Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies.” National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), Apr. 2018.

Watts, Clint. “A Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analysis of Spatiotemporal Patterns of Terrorist Incidents in Iraq 2004–2009.” Taylor & Francis,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s