Three years after the antisemitic attack at the Tree of Life building in Squirrel Hill, Mayor Bill Peduto has helped create two documents intended to guide leaders of other communities in the event of a mass shooting.
The first document, called “First 24 Hours Mass Shooting Protocol,” will help mayors through rapid response with a checklist for immediate actions. The second document, the “Mass Shooting Playbook,” shares guidance for mayors to respond to and help survivors and their communities recover from an attack.
Peduto is part of a coalition of mayors fighting to end gun violence through the group Everytown for Gun Safety. During a Nov. 18 webinar sponsored by the group, Peduto discussed the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and how the newly launched documents could help other governmental leaders manage the aftermath of another mass homicide.
Reflecting on the morning of Oct. 27, Peduto told webinar listeners that when his chief of staff, Dan Gilman, called just before 10 a.m. to say there was an active shooter at the Tree of Life building, “the last thing that I thought about was what is the protocol of a mayor.” His initial thoughts, he said, weren’t about what needed to be done in the first few hours, days and weeks after the shooting. Instead, his first thoughts were, “I need to be at the scene,” he said. “I need to make sure that my constituents are safe. I need to make sure that my personnel is safe.”
As Oct. 27 stretched on, however, and phone calls came in from mayors across the country, Peduto’s mindset rapidly shifted. Their advice made clear “that we were all a part of a caucus — the caucus that you would never want to be a part of,” Peduto said.
Even after the day ended, conversations with elected officials from cities including Dayton, Ohio, and Orlando and Parkland, Florida, continued, and Peduto concluded that the likelihood of another mass shooting “wasn’t a matter of if— it was simply a matter of when.”
The dialogue was informative, but as valuable as his colleague’s counsel was, Peduto realized there wasn’t a document that could help other mayors “get past what will be one of the darkest days in that city’s history.”
Peduto said he met Sarah Peck, a former U.S. diplomat and current director of United on Guns, who expressed interest in creating a playbook of lessons learned from mass shootings.
Peck told Peduto that if Pittsburgh was willing “to roll up the sleeves, go through the trauma and be able to reflect back upon those days,” she was sure other cities would follow suit.
Peduto agreed, and said his colleagues joined him in sharing their experiences managing the aftermath of a mass shooting.
What emerged from those conversations was “a playbook that should be in the top drawer of every mayor,” Peduto said.
This material, which was organized by Peck, and shared by Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization with 6 million supporters, provides elected officials with a guide to the “necessary steps” to take immediately following a mass homicide and how to empower various departments and individuals within a city, Peduto said.
The 198-page report, which is available online, is based on experience and “long overdue,” Peduto continued. What the documents ultimately offer mayors is more than a series of instructions on helping constituents survive, he added, but lessons on how to “be able to heal.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.