In less than two months, four different incidents spring to mind where gunmen bent on killing emerged.
With the number of active shooter events increasing, local law enforcement continued this month efforts to train for just those type situations.
“Our goal is to train for the worst and hope for the best. … It’s difficult to predict anything that is going to happen before it happens,” Bartow County Sheriff’s Office Departmental Training Officer Sgt. Richey Harrell said. “So our training is geared toward the reactionary aspect of an incident so that we can stop the threat as quickly as possible.”
Dr. Pete Blair, director of research for Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University, said 2014 is on par to meet the growing number of active shooter events (ASE).
From 2000 to 2008, the nation averaged five ASEs per year, but by 2009, that number had climbed to 15 per year — a 300 percent increase.
Blair said there was no clear answer to “the million-dollar question” of why there appears to be such a rise, but pointed to the ability to more easily locate reports of such shootings through Internet research.
Law enforcement response to active shooters changed after the Columbine High School tragedy.
“The demographics of active shooter response have changed since Columbine from an encircle-and-contain to a direct-threat approach, so our training is more of a direct-to-threat approach,” Harrell said.
Active shooter events, according to Blair, are those involving firearms where the perpetrator intends to cause mass casualties — meaning more than four fatalities. In a March 2013 report, Blair reported that of the 84 ASEs between 2000 and 2010, the median number of people killed was two and the average number of people shot was four.
While predicting where and when an event will occur is virtually impossible, training can assist everyone from business leaders to school officials and law enforcement officers.
“The only real way to do any real type of prediction, if you will, is really rely upon the businesses, schools or whatever in the area to try to identify in their realm the possibility of something, a disgruntled employee for example,” Harrell said. “You can’t look at someone and say, ‘Wow, he’s going to be an active shooter. He’s going to come in and blow the place up or shoot people.’ You can’t really say that. However, there is some training that they can receive that gives triggers for their management ... to look for so they can identify that there is a potential of a serious incident based on a particular individual.”
Blair said not only is training “crucial” for law enforcement, but a uniform approach works best.
“Officers will perform as they have trained when placed under stress. Because officers from many agencies will respond to an active-shooter call, it is important that they all be operating from the same sheet of music,” he said.
An oft-overlooked area of active shooter response — EMS and fire — was highlighted in Blair’s 2013 report.
“Officers should be provided with training that will allow them to stabilize victims long enough for either EMS to enter the scene or for officers to transport victims to the EMS casualty collection point,” the report stated.
BCSO deputies on Thursday received CPR and first aid refreshers ahead of their active shooter response training.
“We do response to active shooter training throughout the year. We try to get into the school system and into the area schools at least once a year, more if possible. We also incorporate active shooter-type response in several different aspects of our training,” Harrell said. “... We incorporated first aid and CPR into active shooter response and refresher training. ... We try to intertwine different things into each training we do. That way it keeps a little bit of everything fresh. You have a main focus, a main topic, but let’s add what else we can to that to keep the wheels turning to keep people on their feet and on their toes and aware of what’s going on.”
The demand for ALERRT’s services, whether training or information, also is rising.
“We always have agencies on our waiting list. People are very interested in data,” Blair said.
Created in 2002 as a partnership between TSU, the San Marcos Police Department and the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, ALERRT was founded to address the need for active shooter response training for first responders, according to the agency’s website, http://alerrt.org. Using more than $30 million in state and federal grant funding in the past 12 years, the center has trained more than 50,000 police officers nationwide, partnering with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in June 2013 to become the FBI’s standard for active-shooter response. For more information on ALERRT or the training offered, visit http://alerrt.org.
Dr. Pete Blair and M. Hunter Martaindale in “United States Active Shooter Events from 2000 to 2010: Training and Equipment Implications” from March 2013 researched active shooter events from the decade covered. Among the key findings:
• 84 Active Shooter Events (ASEs) occurred between 2000 and 2010, and appear to be increasing — from an average five per year from 2000 to 2008 to 15 per year from 2009 on.
• Business locations were the most frequently attacked (37 percent), schools (34 percent), and public (outdoor) venues (17 percent).
• The median number of people killed during ASEs is 2. The median number shot is 4.
• The most commonly used weapon was a pistol (60 percent), followed by rifles (27 percent), and shotguns (10 percent).
• Attackers carried multiple weapons in 41 percent of the attacks.
• Body armor was worn in 4 percent of cases.
• The attacks ended before the police arrived 49 percent of the time. In 56 percent of the attacks that were still ongoing when the police arrived, the police had to use force to stop the killing.
— Source: Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, http://alerrt.org