A Deadly Terrorist Attack: Lessons Learned

New World Public Safety The Call

A Deadly Terrorist Attack: Lessons Learned

On December 2, 2015 more than 80 county public health employees in San Bernardino, CA were attending a training session at the Inland Regional Center. They didn't know it at the time, but what they were about to experience was one of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001.

The attack was orchestrated by Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik. Farook was a county employee and had been attending the training session, but left at some point during the training to meet up with his wife to carry out the massacre.

In less than five hours, Farook and Malik had killed 14 individuals, wounded 22 others, were tracked down by police and killed in a shootout.

Although five hours does not seem like a lot of time, it was enough to change the lives of the dozens impacted by the attack. It was also enough time for those working for the San Bernardino Police Department to realize what matters most.

According to Chief Jarrod Burguan of the San Bernardino Police Department the terrorist attack proved three things to him:

Training matters.

Relationships matter.

Everyone matters.

During the Attack

The first call regarding the attack came into the San Bernardino Police Department's dispatch center at 10:58 a.m. Within four minutes, law enforcement officers arrived on the scene; within 30 minutes, more than 300 law enforcement officers were actively engaged in the response.

Burguan said that dispatchers received conflicting information so they were unsure if there was an active shooter on the scene or if the individual had fled. Regardless, both sworn officers and civilian employees performed flawlessly as they responded to the situation. It was later discovered that both shooters had fled in a black SUV.

As leads to the shooters' whereabouts came in, a county employee who was a witness to the shooting suggested that police look for Farook. This witness noticed that Farook had left the training and was still nowhere to be found.

However, when news of the attack was broadcast later that day, an individual called in reporting that he had seen a black SUV and actually remembered the license plate number. The license plate came back as belonging to a car rental agency and investigators were able to determine that Farook had rented the automobile.

When police located Farook and Malik, more than 400 rounds were fired in the shootout that ultimately resulted in the deaths of both shooters.

The Aftermath

In the hours, days and weeks that followed the attack, Burguan spoke about the incident tirelessly to the media and other law enforcement agencies.

What he repeatedly stressed was that his team of sworn officers, civilian employees and the public safety software that they used throughout the terrorist attack all performed exceptionally well.

"As a leader, I was very proud of the performance demonstrated by our personnel on December 2," Burguan said. "This tragedy struck our department and our community hard. It was being carried live for the whole world to see. I was extraordinarily proud of how well all of our personnel performed their duty under tremendous pressure and scrutiny. With the overwhelming call volume received on that day, it was imperative that our CAD system was capable of keeping up. Our system handled the volume providing assurance to our dispatch personnel, our officers in the field and to me and my command staff so we could focus on our tasks at hand."

In total, the San Bernardino Police Department received approximately 3,000 incoming calls the day of the attack.

"It was an overwhelming amount of calls, but our people and the system never faltered," Burguan said.

Lessons Learned

The tragedy in San Bernardino forever changed the lives of the people directly and indirectly involved. But what it also did was teach one agency three invaluable lessons.

The first of those lessons was that training matters.

Burguan said that all of the sworn officers and civilian employees with the department demonstrated how important it is to be trained in a variety of situations. All of the employees working the day of the shooting had been trained on what to do in an active shooter situation. Most importantly, everyone involved utilized that training to help save lives, provide care to the wounded and protect the public.

The second lesson was that relationships matter.

No law enforcement agency exists in a vacuum. The San Bernardino Police Department provided the initial call for service to the terrorist attack, but was quickly aided by the county sheriff's office.

Burguan said that this response not only provided those impacted by the attack with the help they needed, but it also showed the importance of the working relationship between the two agencies.

"We have a tremendous partnership with other local agencies," Burguan said. "The way we worked together that day especially shows the great relationship that we have established."

The third lesson — perhaps the most important of them all — was that everyone matters.

From the civilians in danger to the law enforcement officers on the scene to the data analysts working behind the scenes to make sense of everything that was happening, no life was more important than another.

"Everyone there that day performed phenomenally," Burguan said. "Everyone played a role that was just as important as the next. It's fair to say that everybody matters."