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Active Shooter Training: At What Cost?

Within the last five years, there have been at least 14 prominent, high-casualty producing active shooter incidents. Most of these cases have occurred in locations where the shooter has been undeterred and unobstructed from carrying out his attack. The incident locations have often been described as soft targets with limited active security measures or armed personnel to provide protection for members of the public.

Active Shooter Training,  School SenarioActive Shooter Training, School Scenario (3)

The Alarming Rise of Active Shooters

Between 2000 and 2008, there were about five active-shooter incidents every year, according to the Justice Department. Since 2009, that annual average has roughly tripled!

As a result of these startling statistics there is new emphasis on active shooter training. Lots of training classes in many forms and delivery formats are popping up.

Beware of Free Training

Free first responder training is rarely truly free. The training class itself including instructors and materials may be offered free as a result of DHS, FEMA or DOJ grants however most grants will not cover the cost of salaries, backfill or overtime. So when an opportunity for “free” training is offered be aware there are in most cases still costs involved. Many departments, especially smaller agencies or volunteer departments, struggle with financial and logistical obstacles of training, such as required staffing levels or response requirements to attend training. So while the class may be advertised as free there are likely to be hidden costs.

Profile of an Active Shooter [1]

An active shooter is defined as:

  • "An individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm[s] and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims."
  • An Active Shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.
  • Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. [1]

Last April, Attorney General Eric Holder urged Congress to approve a $15 million dollar funding request for the VALOR Initiative[1] grant program. A major share of this funding allocation would be directed toward active shooter training.

In his plea for the VALOR funding request Holder said “that the FBI’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center, which supports state, local and campus safety officials, has responded to a nearly 200 percent increase in requests for assistance in the past year and has helped detect and mitigate potential active-shooter threats. “But we must also be prepared to respond quickly and effectively to active-shooter incidents if and when they do occur,” Holder said. “And in today’s world, the first response must often be led not by SWAT teams or specialized police units but by the very first patrol officers to arrive on the scene.”

“But we must also be prepared to respond quickly and effectively to active-shooter incidents if and when they do occur,” Holder said. “And in today’s world, the first response must often be led not by SWAT teams or specialized police units but by the very first patrol officers to arrive on the scene.”

Over the past decade, the Justice Department and the FBI have helped provide active-shooter training to some 60,000 officers, on-scene commanders and local, state and federal agency heads, according to the Justice Department.

Of the requested $15M by AG Holder the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University at San Marcos hopes to receive around $7M. According to the ALERRT web site, since the program was created in 2002 as a partnership between the University, the San Marcos Police Department and the Hays County Sheriff’s Office to address the need for active shooter response training for first responders. Using more than $25 million in state and federal grant funding in the last ten years, the ALERRT Center has trained more than 50,000 police officers nationwide in dynamic, force-on-force scenario-based training. With a backlog of about 300 requests for training at ALERRT approval of the FY 2015 VALOR funding is critical.

In March of 2013, the FBI announced that ALERRT is the national standard through which they are training their agents. Mississippi, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Iowa, Alabama, Iowa, Louisiana, and South Carolina are among the first states to train and adopt the ALERRT curriculum as their state standard in active shooter response. Other states are moving forward with this as their standard and many large cities (New York City, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and San Antonio) are training all of their front line officers in ALERRT tactics and standards.

The ALERRT model of training is an excellent example of adapting to the “real world” emergency response training. As mentioned above, although training that is “free” as is the case with  ALERRT Active Shooter training through the VALOR program there are still associated costs with the training.

Train-the-Trainer Model

Utilizing the “Train-the-Trainer Model,” the ALERRT Active Shooter curriculum has been adopted by numerous states and agencies as their standard active shooter training. The Train-the-Trainer program is a practical way for a small department to send one officer to an ALERRT course then return back to their department and teach others. Once back the department can schedule the class within the boundaries of their everyday staffing role calls and availability.

The ALERRT program works!  Many states have adopted the ALERRT curriculum including Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Louisiana, and Virginia, to name a few. In addition, the New York City Police Department, Dallas Police Department, Houston Police Department, San Antonio Police Department and the Atlanta Police Department are among the major cities across the nation, who have adopted the curriculum as their standard.

Active Shooter Training in the Workplace

For the Civilian or Non-First Responder people caught in an active shooter training situation there also free training resources available. The Department of Homeland Security provides excellent resource and guidance on its web site at “Active Shooter Preparedness

Another free training resource may be found at the Countermeasure Consulting Group. Their free 23 minute video titled “Active Shooter Prevention Free Training Videois professionally produced and should be downloaded and shared with co-workers and family members.

 

Additional Resources On this Topic:

Here are several additional ways to stay connected and informed with Public Safety Training:

Public Safety Training Newsletter – a monthly e-newsletter covering the top news, events and announcements in Public Safety Training.

Responder Gateway – A full featured First Responder news and resource hub. One Place, One Stop, One Source.

Bill Booth Blog – Timely opinions and articles, on issues and comments about public safety training center management, funding and operations.

[1] The Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability Initiative (VALOR) is designed to create alert, knowledgeable officers, as well as encourage supervisors and executives to focus on officer safety issues. http://www.valorforblue.org/

[1] DHS Active Shooter Booklet- http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/active_shooter_booklet.pdf

[1] DHS Active Shooter Booklet- http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/active_shooter_booklet.pdf

[3] Photo from: http://www.grandronde.org/news/articles/tribe-hosts-active-shooter-training-for-local-police-departments/

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