Columbia and Boone County first responders are taking steps to improve coordination for events involving violence resulting in injuries. Meeting July 9, in an after-action briefing, agency representatives, including Columbia Police, Columbia Fire, Boone Hospital Center, University of Missouri Health Care and Boone County Joint Communications, reviewed the response to shootings that occurred July 5 on Volunteer Drive. Two persons died and three were injured as a result of gun violence.
"City of Columbia and Boone County public safety personnel respond in unison dozens of times daily with cohesion, cooperation, and in most instances with flawless execution," said Columbia Fire Chief Andy Woody. "There are times however that a very dynamic, challenging, high risk - and thankfully rare event presents opportunities for us to learn together and improve together to continue to provide the high quality services the citizens and visitors of the City of Columbia expect and deserve."
During the July 9 debrief, the agencies reviewed the radio traffic, as well as each agency’s established protocols for responding to active crime scenes. It became apparent during the review that on scene communication was at times unclear among the emergency responders.
As is standard practice, agencies use different radio channels to communicate as they respond to active scenes. Responders at the scene do not hear all requests made by Boone County Joint Communications. This practice of channeling communications is intended to ensure that agencies do not interrupt critical, time-sensitive conversations happening on other channels in response to an active incident. As recordings of radio traffic are released publicly, it is important to note the time stamps are important markers. Voices heard on these recordings at the same time indicated simultaneous radio traffic. Agencies on one channel will not hear radio traffic on the other channel.
As the responding agencies reviewed radio traffic from the event, which lasted about 30 minutes, several things stood out.
- Police were on the scene providing trauma care to victims and indicated they needed medics;
- Emergency medical responders were staged appropriately near the scene waiting for direct communication, including the words "scene stable" indicating that the scene was secure for them to enter; and
- The request for medics by law enforcement was not relayed as expected.
During the debriefing, all agencies discussed areas for continued improvement and are taking the following actions:
- Responding agencies will begin monitoring cross-radio traffic to ensure accurate, direct communications in situations that involve an active crime scene.
- On all incidents involving violence, Columbia Police Department will provide clear communication to first responders that the scene is stable.
- In order to improve awareness and understanding of the role of different response agencies, ride-alongs between agencies will be implemented.
- Additional joint training scenarios will be developed and practiced, much like active shooter trainings conducted in the past couple of years.
"Events of violence and active crime scenes present challenging and often chaotic circumstances for responding agencies," Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones said. "It is our shared commitment to continue improvement and clear communication. Our hearts go out to the families of those affected by this violence. Out of this tragedy, we will emerge stronger as a community as will our public safety agencies."
The audio files of radio traffic for the incident are available by contacting Boone County Joint Communications at 573.554.1000, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.