The timing was coincidental. On the same day a shooter opened fire in a Fifth Third Bank in downtown Cincinnati, killing three people and wounding two others, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker convened an active shooter/hostile event response (ASHER) program for first responders and school officials at the headquarters of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Yesterday's School Active Shooter Symposium was the first of three programs taking place this month in the eastern and western parts of the state. The day-long forum for police, fire, EMS and school leaders was co-hosted by Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey and NFPA President/CEO Jim Pauley. Keynote speaker Michele Gay captivated the crowd with her candor and concerns about school safety. Gay is one of the founders of Safe and Sound Schools who lost her daughter, Josephine Grace, on December 14, 2012 in the Sandy Hook School shooting in Connecticut.

Develop a plan

The fire marshal reminded attendees about the importance of developing and reviewing comprehensive school emergency plans annually before school starts – a requirement that has been in place in Massachusetts since 2002. “We’ve worked together to develop medical emergency response plans, protocol for bomb threats, and to place defibrillators in schools. These collaborative efforts, and the dialogue today, are the building blocks that we can use to address this next major school safety issue,” Ostroskey said.

NFPA standard provides framework

The symposium concept was built around the components outlined in NFPA 3000TM (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter / Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, which was released in May to help communities holistically deal with the growing number of mass casualty incidents. Serving as the first of its kind, the new standard provides the framework for entire communities to organize, manage, communicate, and sustain an active shooter/hostile event program.

“The NFPA 3000 process, from start to finish, has been an exceptional example of emergency responders and other safety-focused practitioners swiftly coming together to provide invaluable perspective and address a significant threat in our world,” said the organization’s Jim Pauley. What brings us here today is a whole different level of concern. Without question, schools and campuses have been the most engaged audience since we released NFPA 3000; this is not surprising, considering the lives you are entrusted to care for.”

Pauley explained that NFPA 3000 provides guidance; local jurisdictions dictate tactics and protocol.

Policymakers play a role

Michele Gay applauded the Baker-Polito administration for recognizing the important role that policymakers play in spearheading positive changes across the nation and around the world; and encouraged state leaders to share today’s formula with their peers in other states.

“Without strong leadership and leaders putting money where their mouth is, it’s like pushing a giant boulder uphill,” Gay said. “Safety is something we all say we want – the mission statement for every single school in America says something about providing a safe and secure environment but when it comes down to the realities of what it takes to keep people safe, we often turn away because it’s uncomfortable, expensive, or may cause us to get into arguments. We need community leaders to work together, and our policy makers to champion, endorse and support collaboration.”

The symposium included:

  • Jen Hoyt from the Department of Fire Services Fire Safety Division speaking about the importance of maintaining building and fire safety while addressing new threats
  • Needham Fire Chief Dennis Condon; Police Chief John Schlittler; and Superintendent Dr. Daniel Gutenkanst discussing the rescue task force concept they employ for a variety of school emergencies
  • Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) members (Malden Public School Principal Peter Dolan; Administrator of Counseling, Health, and Wellness for Winchester Public Schools Jason Levene; Lincoln Police Department Detective Ian Spencer; and Marblehead Fire Department Firefighter Brendan Sheehan) shared what they are doing to help communities identify at-risk students to prevent incidents from happening in the first place

To download video content from the event, please visit; more information on NFPA 3000, can be found at