Saturday, June 20, 2015

Where Have All the Crisis Actors Gone?

by James Tracy
June 19, 2015, the website established to represent the collaboration between the Visionbox professional actors studio and FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute has been dormant since August 2014. This is according to information obtained from Internet Archive on June 15, 2015.

On July 29, 2014 a notice retrieved from Internet Archive for announces:
We apologize for the inconvenience, but Crisis Actors is currently undergoing maintenance.

On August 5, 2014 a moderately revised statement announces:

Sorry! We’re under maintenance. We are making some updates to the site. We’ll be back soon, thanks for your patience [sic].

Less than one month later, on August 26, 2014 a static page is prompted via the url that has remained through June 19, 2015.

404: Not Found. Please double check the address you’ve just entered. If you entered “”, try “ instead.”

It is clear from the continuum of these announcements and their identical features that the most recent notification is an attempt to convince the casual browser that the site never existed, when in fact it appears it is being retained for possible future use.

One may recall that in late 2012 the use of professional actors for a variety of roles in “live shooter drills” was becoming common practice. Indeed, as the Sandy Hook massacre event was dominating the news cycle even maintained a department of “Crisis Actors News”–hyperlinked headlines of stories on active shooter drills where its stable of actors are presumably engaged.

Weber Co. Sheriff’s Office conducts active shooter drill – Fox 13 Now – Salt Lake City
Henn. County deputies train for active shooter incident – KARE
San Bernardino County Sheriff Department staged a series of active shooter on … – Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
MSA Security: Active Shooter Response Training Could Help Schools – GroundReport
Roanoke County Police hold active shooter drill – WDBJ7
Roanoke County police train for active shooter emergency – WSLS
VIDEO: Airport Police Conduct ‘Active Shooter’ Training in Light of Sandy Hook … – Pacific News Center
Mobile Simulators Provide ‘Active Shooter’ Training To Ohio Officers – 10TV
Active Shooter Drill Taking Place at CSUN – KTLA
Sheriff-elect: Crews trained, ready for active shooter situations – KTIV
It’s only a drill: Police conducting “active shooter” training on UGA campus – Online Athens
Police conduct active shooter drill in area school – Q13 FOX
Sandy Hook: Ithaca Police Finish ‘Active Shooter’ Training on Day of Conn … – The Ithaca Independent
UA teachers receive training to take on active shooter – Akron Beacon Journal
Police Officers Get “Active Shooter” Training –
Special training helps prepare for active shooter; ALICE techniques being … – 10News
Tucson Police conducts active shooter drill – KVOA Tucson News
Active shooter drill spooks students, teachers – FOX 4 News
ALiCE training offers active shooter prep for schools – Bellefontaine Examiner
Program takes notes from tragedies in active shooter training – KHOU

In the months leading up to the Sandy Hook school massacre “live shooter drills” using “crisis actors,” sometimes to the alarm of unwitting bystanders, was becoming increasingly commonplace. Image credit: crisis

Vistionbox likewise carried a description of the Crisis Actors project on its website as late as December 26, 2012:

    Crisis Actors is a professional group of actors trained at Visionbox to develop and portray characters in emergency training scenarios. The intensity at which they work recreates real life pressures that first responders going through the training must cope with.

    Crisis Actors, at this time, consists of two teams.

    The first team is the same group that makes up our professional acting ensemble and is the initial group to work on this project. Our actors with the guidance of filmmaker John Simmons, school safety expert Steve Hoban, and Executive Artistic Director Jennifer McCray Rincon, have developed scenarios aimed at training first responders (teachers, administrators, custodians, etc) how to effectively manage an emergency with quick and powerful decisions. This special group has sessions with police officers, 911 operators, school administrators, mall security, radio experts, and school safety training professionals. There is an endless amount of scenarios this group can tackle, which range anywhere from weather issues, to a missing child, to an unknown intruder.

    The second team is a group of highly talented actors that have been working on their acting craft by training with Master Acting Teacher Jennifer McCray Rincon on classic material written by Anton Chekhov, Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare, Brecht, and other influential playwrights. Eventually, the second team will go through the same training the first team went through. This intense work will eventually be applied to portraying characters in a Crisis Actor training scenario.

    For more information please visit the Crisis Actors website, call us at 720.810.1641, or email us at

By January 16, 2013 as the Visionbox and Crisis Actors websites were besieged with hits following Anderson Cooper’s reportage (below) and attendant mainstream media coverage the above post had been deleted.

Along these lines, on October 31, 2012, “Visionbox Crisis Actors” issued a press release announcing their services, “Active Shooter Crisis Actors Target Mall Shootings via Visionbox.” This article clearly references the actors’ coordination with law enforcement.

    The actors regularly rehearse scenarios involving the Incident Command System and crisis communications, and appear in interactive training films produced in both 2D and stereoscopic 3D.

The press release is reproduced in its entirety below courtesy of Fellowship of the Minds. Indeed, unbeknownst to this author at the time the good folks at FOTM were closely considering the “crisis actors” phenomenon in early January 2012.

    Active Shooter Crisis Actors Target Mall Shootings via Visionbox

    DENVER, CO, October 31, 2012 — A new group of actors is now available nationwide for active shooter drills and mall shooting full-scale exercises, announced Visionbox, Denver’s leading professional actors studio.

    Visionbox Crisis Actors are trained in criminal and victim behavior, and bring intense realism to simulated mass casualty incidents in public places.

    The actors’ stage acting experience, ranging from Shakespeare to contemporary American theater, enables them to “stay in character” throughout an exercise, and improvise scenes of extreme stress while strictly following official exercise scenarios.
    The actors regularly rehearse scenarios involving the Incident Command System and crisis communications, and appear in interactive training films produced in both 2D and stereoscopic 3D.

    Producers Jennifer McCray Rincon and John Simmons formed the group to demonstrate emerging security technologies, help first responders visualize life-saving procedures, and assist trainers in delivering superior hands-on crisis response training.

    For example, with a large shopping center, the producers review all security camera views and design dramatic scenes specifically for existing camera angles, robotic camera sweeps, and manually-controlled camera moves.

    The producers then work with the trainers to create a “prompt book” for the actors so that key scenario developments can be triggered throughout the mall shooting simulation, and caught on tape.

    The actors can play the part of the shooters, mall employees, shoppers in the mall, shoppers who continue to arrive at the mall, media reporters and others rushing to the mall, and persons in motor vehicles around the mall.

    Visionbox Crisis Actors can also play the role of citizens calling 911 or mall management, or posting comments on social media websites.

    During the exercise, the producers use two-way radio to co-direct the Crisis Actors team from the mall dispatch center and at actors’ locations.

    Within this framework, the exercise can test the mall’s monitoring and communications systems, the mall’s safety plan including lockdown and evacuation procedures, the ability of first responders and the mall to coordinate an effective response, and their joint ability to respond to the media and information posted on the Internet.

    Security camera footage is edited for after-action reports and future training.

    For more information visit and

    Visionbox is a project of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center. Crisis Actors is a project of the Colorado Safety Task Force established by Colorado State Senator Steve King.

    Nathan Bock
    Amanda Brown
    (720) 810-1641

Yet there may be much more to the Visionbox Crisis Actors project reverberating through the flurry of alleged shooting incidents taking place since the early 2010s. For example, Visionbox is proficient in using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to “broadcast” a catastrophic event to both participant “actors” and the public at large. In addition, the theatric entourage/ is also knowledgeable at “crowdsourcing,”or monitoring how an event is relayed and interpreted through the body politic via Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

In December 2012 Visionbox Crisis Actors produced a detailed 73-page syllabus, “Social Media in Emergency Management,” an instructional class foregrounding the central role of social media to coordinate and convey a catastrophic event. The course objectives include:

o Explain why social media is important for emergency management.

o Describe the major functions and features of common social media sites currently used in emergency management.

o Describe the opportunities and challenges of using social media applications during the five phases of emergency management.

o Describe better practices for using social media applications during the five phases of emergency management.

o Describe the process for building social media capabilities and to sustain the use of social media in emergency management organizations (state, local, tribal, territorial).

o Explain why using social media is important to emergency management.

o Identify the changes in media and public information.

o Explain the communication opportunities available to emergency managers through social media.

o Describe several examples of using social media in a variety of emergency management functions in different types of disasters.

o Identify the challenges of using social media and explore ways that these might be addressed.

As Sofia Smallstorm has suggested through her meticulous research, the Sandy Hook massacre was in fact mediated to a significant degree via social media. Thus perhaps unsurprisingly, earlier intimations by this author and other independent researchers, that “crisis actors” might have been present in the most significant “live shooter event” in the US to date, left Vistionbox Crisis Actors and their defenders, such as CNN’s Anderson Cooper, bristling with indignation. crisisactors_tracy

“We are outraged by … James Tracy’s deliberate promotion of rumor and innuendo to link Crisis Actors to the Sandy Hook shootings of December 14, 2012,” the site fumed just two days before Cooper’s famous January 11, 2013 broadcast calling out the “conspiracy theory professor.”

    We do not engage our actors in any real world crisis events, and none of our performances may be presented at any time as a real-world event. James Tracy’s so-called research is copied almost verbatim from a tightly-connected group of hate blogs and YouTube channels that use only one another as sources. From the thousands of comments of these sites’ devoted followers, one thing is clear: They are nothing but thrill-seekers using any pretext to vent their irrational hate against the Sandy Hook community and a nation of mourners.

Yet these very researchers may have identified several Visionbox actors who closely resembled supposed emergency responders and family members on the scene in Sandy Hook on December 14, 2012 and thereafter, some of whom made themselves readily available for press interviews. This was detailed in a MHB post appearing in April 2013, “Crisis Actors at Sandy Hook?

A foremost link between Visionbox/Crisis Actors, Anderson Cooper and Connecticut is the fact that Visionbox’s founder and director referenced in the above press statement, Jennifer McCray Rincon, received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Yale University. Cooper and Rincon were both attending Yale in the late 1980s, with Cooper graduating with an undergraduate degree in 1989, and Rincon receiving her MFA in 1987.

The fact that the alliance between Visionbox, Crisis Actors and FEMA is no longer trumpeted on the internet and in press releases, and that the website has “disappeared”, may very well be a matter of coincidence. For others it may be concerning, particularly in the midst of the catastrophic civic breakdowns over the past few years in Boston, Ferguson and Baltimore, in addition to the numerous active shooter events, most recently manifest in Charleston South Carolina.

Fortunately, federally-coordinated law enforcement are on the job keeping citizens safe from “haters” and “lone wolf terrorists” alike. Between June 15 and 19, 2015, for example, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston was conducting The Active Shooter Threat Instructor Training Program, “designed to provide a field training agent or officer with high quality training and instill the analytical knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for the highest proficiency in this specialized field,” the course description reads. “The course takes Active Shooter Threat Tactics Training to the next level by emphasizing leadership, teach backs, and adult learning as well as the traditional

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