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Civil Unrest Response: Operations

Follow this guidance when responding to civil unrest incidents:

Coordinate response activities

  • First and foremost, develop an Incident Action Plan. Communicate, exercise, follow and adapt the plan as needed. Create a communications plan to communicate between organizational and jurisdictional partners.
  • Activate the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to support the incident area.
  • Assign fire and EMS representatives to the EOC to assist with coordination. Establish a method for screening calls for service and determining response priorities. This includes determining if no response is warranted or is unfeasible given the current circumstances.
  • Establish Unified Command with appropriate law enforcement and other agencies.
  • Consider using Modified Area Command in areas of civil unrest.

    In this configuration, response assets are assigned to the Unified Command team and staged in a safe location. Response assignments must be coordinated by the Unified Command team using assigned resources. Responses within the unaffected areas are controlled by the normal dispatch process or jurisdiction EOC using resources not assigned to Area Command.

  • Ensure Command Post security and remain flexible as location might be subject to change rapidly.
  • Identify Hot, Warm and Cold zones. These must be dynamic and may be based on geographic area or specific to a single incident.

Hot Zone

An area considered unsafe. Law enforcement support is required for force protection in the Hot Zone.

Warm Zone

An area of lower threat, but which may become unsafe. Law enforcement support is recommended for entry into the Warm Zone.

Cold Zone

An area of little to no threat of civil unrest or violence. Law enforcement support is optional for entry into the Cold Zone.

  • Maintain and communicate situational awareness across all levels of the response and with the Unified Command team.
  • Establish fueling, maintenance and logistics support for apparatus and personnel assigned to the area of operations/incident staging area.
  • Activate an Incident Management Team early to help organize and coordinate activities.
  • Be prepared to engage hazardous materials and EMS assets in the event of chemical dispersant use.
  • Prepare to activate department Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans and alternate facilities.

Modify operations based on perceived threat or risk

  • Provider safety remains the highest priority and, when possible, should be addressed.
  • Scan environment and communicate with command for situational awareness before exiting apparatus.
  • Consider modified response protocols, including:
    • Adding or removing response assets based upon the situation, area, need, perceived escalation, threat, etc.
    • Minimize use of equipment as feasible.
    • Ensure control over equipment used; if used, take it back out with you (medical bags, hydrant wrench, etc.).
  • Rapidly size up and communicate the potential for any situation to get worse and the unmitigated or escalated impacts to life, property, infrastructure, etc.
  • Consider alternative mitigation strategies such as:
    • Immediate patient movement out of impacted area (into Cold Zone).
    • Treatment in place without transport for minor injuries (conducted in secure area).
    • Treatment in route versus on scene.
    • Suspension of requirements for medical direction to perform routine procedures and medication administration.
    • Rapid fire attack to slow spread as much and as fast as possible.
  • Establish response task force for entry into Hot and Warm zones. For example:

EMS response task force

Two law enforcement vehicles with four personnel per vehicle, two EMS transport vehicles/ambulances, one EMS or fire supervisor, and one fire apparatus. Consideration should be given for level of care: basic life support or advanced life support.

Fire response task force

Two law enforcement vehicles with four personnel per vehicle, two fire apparatus with pumps, and a supervising officer.

  • Work in teams of two or more and remain in contact with each other.
  • Position apparatus to allow for rapid evacuation.
    • Back/angle apparatus into position.
    • Keep an evacuation lane open.
    • Avoid dead ends, roadblocks, etc.
    • Avoid the use of supply lines that may block streets.
  • Illuminate the incident scenes.
  • Recognize that there may be a need to abandon apparatus and/or equipment.
  • Consider the use of plow and possibly tow trucks for debris and vehicle removal to clear path for apparatus.

Maintain situational awareness

  • Ensure current information is communicated to those that need to know.
  • Leverage all possible sources of response area and regional intelligence, including potential locations of gatherings.
  • Maintain channels of communication with law enforcement, fusion centers and other emergency response partners regarding threat information and intelligence.
  • Ensure that intelligence is free flowing laterally and vertically.
  • Monitor local media reports for situation awareness.

Issues related to operations during COVID-19

  • Maintain social distancing across the entire incident scene.
  • Consider locating the Command Post (if needed) and all other incident management structures (Staging, Treatment, Triage, etc.) in larger areas away from the incident scene, as feasible.
  • Minimize access to these areas, and adhere to strict personal protective equipment use, including masks.