Learn the correct response to active shooters

Hernando organizes a week-long program to train law enforcement

The recent string of mass shooting incidents, most recent with the tragedies at Uvalde Elementary School, Texas Ross, has led law enforcement to learn how to respond when an active shooter seeks to cause mass amounts of deaths and murders.

The Hernando Police Department and Chief Scott Worsham recently hosted a team of instructors from Texas State University’s ALERRT program, the national standard for law enforcement response to active shooter events, because, as the said instructor Doug Herrington, “We’re going to be more effective when we’re all taught the same way. Every department has their own SWAT teams and all that, but in this event, if those officers are all working to the same sheet of music, we’re going to be more effective at solving this problem and saving as many lives as possible.

The week-long visit by ALERRT instructors to Hernando High School drew departments from Mississippi, Michigan, and metro Memphis.

ALERRT stands for Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Team. During the five-day program, participants learn about the program and then learn to teach the program, said Rusty Jacks, Tyler, Texas, assistant police chief and assistant program instructor at Texas State University.

A trainer (in yellow) watches as an officer checks on a fallen ‘suspect’ during active shooter training (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

“The first two days they actually attend the class as students, and then the last three days we teach them how to re-teach the class to their students,” Jacks said. “This class is an instructor level class. We teach these guys to go and teach the class at their agencies.

ALERRT is taught in all 50 states and is also taught internationally.

With the high school hallway in the spotlight, officers learned one afternoon how to approach and eliminate a sniper threat trapped in a classroom. Safety, coordination and teamwork are an important key. Officers used special practice weapons painted blue to differentiate them from real weapons and these were “dummy” cartridges which were also pre-checked to ensure nothing lethal was involved. In fact, every attendee, including this reporter watching the action, was searched beforehand to ensure no live bullets were involved in the training session.

Practice guns used in active fire training, colored blue to let participants know they are practice guns. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

Officers walked around the scene and then the instructors told them what had been done well and what could have been improved.

ALERRT training evolves with each shooter incident, Jacks said, because the program learns from each situation.

“There are three basic principles that we pass on to these guys for them to teach their students,” Jacks explained. “There are a lot of things that go into each of these principles, but it’s about stopping the killing, stopping the dying, and there’s a quick evacuation of the wounded. These are the three basic principles that we try to make them understand. Inside of that, there’s a lot of learning going on in each of them.

Jacks estimates a 500% increase in the number of departments requesting the ALERRT program to come and instruct their officers on rapid response to active shooter situations.

“Given what’s been in the news and whatever we need,” Jacks said. “There is a demand there and a definite need for service.

Both Jacks and Herrington pointed out that ALERRT is a grant-funded program from the federal government and the state of Texas that pays instructors to come and teach the program.

“It’s the national standard, so the federal government and the FBI chose this program to support and fund,” Herrington said.

Program details can be found on the ALERRT program website.

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