COLLEGE STATION – As the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, approaches, Brazos County law enforcement officials will be better prepared to manage a mass casualty incident in their community. Fifty-four law enforcement officers, dispatchers and other police officials recently completed a three-day training program on “Active Shooter Incident Management,” hosted by the College Station Police Department.
The course was conducted by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and the Texas State University Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) program on April 23-25. Participants responded to scenarios involving complex, coordinated attacks from active shooters at multiple locations.
One year ago, when a gunman opened fire and killed eight students and two teachers, Santa Fe joined a long list of communities impacted by mass shootings in the last three years: places like Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Parkland, Thousand Oaks, Orlando and Sutherland Springs.
Law enforcement officers in Bryan-College Station hope they never see such an event in their community, but training to manage any large-scale incident is valuable because it brings together key people and organizations that will need to coordinate and pool resources to manage any major incident.
The interactive training involved a scenario where dispatchers received reports of an active shooter at a local airport. As responders were dispatched to the airport, a second shooter opened fire at a commuter rail station. The scenario is designed to put those in the command center in a realistic situation where resources may be stretched to the limit, communications may be fractured, and officers at the scene are frantically calling for support to transport the injured to the hospital.
Special Agent Chris Earnest with the Texas Department of Public Safety said the training adds another realistic aspect: stress. “This is about as realistic a training class as you can have.”
“It helps when everyone knows their roles (in an incident),” said Lt. Craig Anderson with the College Station Police Department. “We need to make sure everyone is on the same page. After Columbine, things changed. Society has changed so we have to change. We can’t use tactics from 1990. We have to continually train and learn to stay up to date.”
Lt. Steve Brock from CSPD added: “This is the best training there is — TEEX is top-notch. The instructors are seasoned law enforcement officers and can speak from experience, and that’s fantastic.”
Sgt. Art Shannon of the Brownwood Police Department also participated in the class. He plans to share what he learned with other officers, agencies and organizations in his community. “I wish every agency, large and small, in the state of Texas could attend. It would make things easier when bad things happen and everyone has to help each other.”
The course, PER353 Active Shooter Incident Management, is DHS/FEMA-funded and offered to qualified personnel nationwide through TEEX’s National Emergency Response and Recovery Training Center as part of the Homeland Security National Training Program.