top of page
  • Beatriz Gutiérrez

The MACTAC concept: An option for Private Security as Immediate Responders?

Actualizado: 11 oct 2020

Year 4 - Week 6

ISSN 2603 - 9931

As active shooting incidents have become familiar, new models of response based on previous lessons learned from other incidents are developing into the law enforcement arena. As in many other aspects, Columbine shooting meant a milestone in the models of response to these incidents. Although it wasn’t the first Active Shooting Event (ASE), Columbine has been for years the most deadly ASE case, and consequently a case of study. The police response model reflected the tactical thinking at the time, in 1999: police from various agencies responded to the attack but they did not enter the school until after thirty minutes. The decision was based on a training for containing the situation until the SWAT team arrives, mobilizes, and responds the attack. In this case, it shows an actual gap of response of more than thirty minutes. The response is correct for hostage incidents or for individuals barricaded in the building, where a negotiation might be also necessary, but definitely it is not appropriate for Active Shooting Events[1]. But in a situation with casualties under fire, it means an eternity in the hell.

MACTAC is the acronym for Multiple Assault Counter-Terrorist Action Capabilities, but it addresses not only ideologically motivated incidents –terrorism- but also non-political ASEs as Columbine or Sandy Hook school shootings. As a model of response, it goes a step beyond the previous Immediate Action Rapid Deployment (IARD) concept, where first responder patrol officer teams –four people- should enter the location as a contact team to stop an assailant’s violent behavior –as it is the case of an active shooter-, while a second team may act as a supporting contact team or as a rescue team in the removal of victims to a safer zone[2]. IARD focused on the neutralization of the threat, as opposed to its containment. The MACTAC concept, however, added new tools after a change in the theater of operations, set by the coordinated terrorist attacks in Mumbai, 2008, where an al-Qaeda linked group killed 166 people in different scenarios shootings. The same pattern reproduced, for instance, years later, in Paris, during the November 2015 attacks. So the MACTAC philosophy moves the stress from the first-responder patrol officers team to the individual patrol officer during an incident with multiple locations: in case of an active killer, the priority is to stop him to also stop the bloodshed, so time for teaming and waiting or the SWAT is limited. This approach of training every officer in capabilities of neutralization of the threat allows a more flexible deployment in multiple targets, the first who arrives might take situation into his own hands, on the one hand neutralizing the threat and on the other one starting the removal of victims to a safe area if possible[3].

It is obvious that the philosophy, although desirable, is not of application in every police agency of the world, and that it will depend of elements such as training, logistics and even legal framework. Additionally, the research conducted by Prof. Pete Blake in 2013 about the end of active shooting incidents showed that if the event ends before the police arrive, is because the shooter commits suicide (50%), and, in a 40% of cases, because he is subdue or shoot by people on the scene. In the remaining 10% of cases, shooter just leaves. When the event ends after the police arrive, in roughly half of the cases the shooter is subdued or shot by an officer, or he commits suicide. But in the first set, it is important to note that when the officer does a “solo entry”, in also half of the cases the scene is still active and an exchange of fire between agent and shooter takes places: in all of the studied cases, one-third of the police officers who made a solo entry were shot, so we can consider that the risk faced by the agents is high in solo interventions[4].

So one plausible question is: if it is that dangerous for a trained officer to do a solo-entry, what will it be like for an immediate responder as a private security agent (PSA) and what would be his Multiple Assault Counter-Terrorist Action Capabilities? Keeping in mind the gap of response and the need to decrease the time of first responders arrival in order to neutralize the threat, some elements should be highlighted.

  • Situational Awareness. Immediate responders as PSAs should be trained in preventive tools as countersurveillance and early detection of suspicious behaviors. There is no one-size-fits-all rule, since differences in monitoring a confine workplace area and open soft targets with a high concentration of random potential victims are remarkable, but common red flags might be of use in early detection.

  • The environment and Run-Hide-Fight. One of the classical premises of irregular warfare –and eventually terrorism is one of its representatives- is the guerrilla moving amongst people as a fish in the water. The same apply the other way around: for the PSA facing a multiple assault incident, the knowledge of the environment is his main asset, since it will reduce the times of response and beginning of evacuating victims (Run), confinement (hide) and, in case of need, defense (fight).

  • Environment and containment. During the gap of response, the PSA is responsible for protecting his own life so he may protect other ones. Evacuation is not only removing potential victims from the threat, but also containing it, since the target has been reduced. In the same way, any electronic measure able to confine the threat and reduce the shooter capability of movement will also be of help.

  • Intelligence gathering. During an ASE, the private security team may act as the “eyes on the ground” for the Law Enforcement through the use of devices as a CCTV and other surveillance tools, providing key data about number of attackers, their locations, type of weapons, scanning of the surrounding area searching for suspicious objects or booby-trapped devices, etc. Similarly, the role of PSA is key regarding the building site plans information, entrances, exits, vulnerabilities and non-safe spots, etc., both from the incident post command or from the facilities.

  • Fight. Realistically speaking, the odds of a PSA to neutralize the threat by himself are quite limited on normal conditions. But as Blake mentions, in more than a 40% of cases before police arrives, the immediate responders as the PSA and potential victims neutralize the threat. A basic tactical training according to the PSA category (is he armed or not, danger of the post, etc.) and the use of tools that might be used as weapons could improve the odds of, if not neutralizing the threat, at least disorient the shooter time enough as to flee the area again.

  • First assistance to victims. As mentioned above, thirty minutes under threat is an eternity in hell, especially when suffering injuries and still taking fire around. One of the roles that the PSA might play with a key importance is the first assistance under indirect threat –meaning, not in the area of direct attack-, first –and only if possible- carrying to a covered or safe area the injured, and secondly providing a first assistance in bleeding control and airway problems. This first care, which obviously is not a professional one, looks for prolonging life until the medical services arrive.

To sum up, the MACTAC concept, translated to the private security sector, is on the one hand the response provided always: the PSA is always the first security professional to arrive to the scene of the incident. Since by the own nature of the job the PSA is on the spot, enhancing through training and proper material his capabilities to mitigate the attack until law enforcement first responders arrive seems a complementary action to the revision of tactical response in Active Shooting Events management.

[1]Police Executive Research Forum (2014), The police response to active shooter incidents. Critical Issues in Policing Series, Washington DC. Pp. 1-2.

[2] Odle, M. (2006), Immediate Action/Rapid Deployment. From Patrol Response to Contemporary Problems: Enhancing Performance of First Responders Through Knowledge and Experience. Kolman, J. (ed.), pp. 173-196.

[3] PoliceMag (2011) 5 Gunfights that changed Law Enforcement. Police, The Law Enforcement Magazine, (Retrieved February 1, 2019)

[4] Blake, P. (2014) Analysis of 84 Active Shooter Incidents Since 2000. Police Executive Research Forum (ED.), The police Response to Active Shooter Incidents. Critical Issues in Policing Series, Washington D.C., pp.4-5.

We are now decysyon

please visit our new website.

bottom of page