DANBURY — If a Brazoria County school were to become involved in an active shooter situation, the officers who would respond to the crisis now know exactly what to do.
In a class set up months before 10 people were killed in nearby Santa Fe High School, officers from Danbury, Angleton, Brazoria County Sheriff’s and Constables offices, Department of Public Safety and Texas Parks and Wildlife gathered at Danbury High School last weekend to participate in the highly demanded Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, or ALERRT, class.
The purpose of the two-day class is to teach officers a nationally standardized response in the event of an active shooter or terrorist attack, Criminal Justice Training Coordinator Rafael Perea said. He, along with three Houston-based FBI instructors, taught the weekend-long class that trains responding officers to first stop the killing by stopping the shooter and then to offer first aid to the injured.
Self-dispatching is common during serious events such as a mass shooting, Perea said, so the training recommends greater agency coordination, such as entering a building where a shooting is occurring if specifically asked to. This can prevent blue-on-blue accidents, Perea said.
Active shooter training became necessary after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, he said. At that time, the available training taught police forces to set up a perimeter and wait for a SWAT team to arrive, Perea said. Unfortunately, that led to an ineffective response at Columbine.
Times have changed and as the number of school shootings climb, officers are now trained to enter the building where the shooting is happening whether they are a 30-year veteran or it’s their first day on the job, Perea said.
The Danbury-based class was the first Perea taught in close proximity and time after a school shooting, he said. Danbury police Capt. Marc Staff said the class was set up long before the shooting at Santa Fe High School, with the department having applied online for the free class months ago. The expectation, he said, was the class would come together next year.
However, Brazoria County was on a list of places that had not hosted an ALERRT class for a while. With money granted by the FBI, the class was more swiftly set up.
“We were very fortunate that the FBI grant came through and that we were on that list,” Staff said.
Danbury police approached surrounding law enforcement agencies likely to respond if something happened in the middle of Danbury, Staff said, and offered them five seats each. Even officers from the Dallas area called hoping to get a seat, but the class filled up before they could offer spots to closer agencies such as Clute and Lake Jackson, Staff said.
Because of the high demand, Staff hopes a few agencies in the Brazoria County area will be able to create a co-op and get all officers on the same page with the national standard, he said.
Thanks to the FBI funding, all the ALERRT team needs from the class venue is chairs and electricity, Perea said. The FBI funded equipment for ALERRT that is mailed to each class venue and mailed back afterwards, he said.
Different agencies attending classes such as the one in Danbury also can help with networking, Perea said. Many of the people in the class had never encountered each other in their daily lives, but would need to be able to work together given a mass shooting situation, he said.
Staff, who was a student in the class, said the training they got in the class was much different than anything they’d learn in the police academy. It gave the participants a “very good, basic understanding” of the appropriate response, he said.