Law enforcement officers learn how to neutralize an active shooter. (Staff photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — Magnolia Elementary School this week was filled with law enforcement personnel, simulated screams and gunfire in a special three-day training exercise to prepare local officers for real-life “active shooter” situations.
The training is provided by the National Center for Biological Research and Training at Louisiana State University, a part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is certified by the Department of Homeland Security.
The Law Enforcement Active Shooter Emergency Response program was set to instruct select officers of the Albany Police Department, the Albany State University Campus Police and the Dougherty County School Police with both classroom and hands-on practical instruction on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, course officials said.
“We could have a shooter situation at any time at the Mall or at a school, and we’re learning how to provide a quick and proper response if that should happen,” said Porsha Stewart, an officer with the Albany Police Department and a student in the program.
Just after noon on Wednesday, the roughly two dozen students were checked out on their gear in a classroom situation at the school. As responders covered up from head to toe, in boots, vests, gloves and paintballer’s masks, the instructor continued with tips for keeping themselves — and others — alive in real life shooter situation.
After donning their protective gear, students moved on to an empty classroom at the elementary school where they would role play a common shooter situation. Inside, the shooter trained his automatic pistol on the intended victim, who was seated and pleading for his life. In the background a recording of people screaming lent a realistic feel to the simulation.
When the instructor fired his pistol, a dozen or so student “hostages” filed quickly out the door as two responders armed with automatic pistols burst in to neutralize the shooter before he could kill the victim. Participants fired special low-charge ammunition which launched semi-soft projectiles to signify a “hit.” Even through the padded gear, the projectiles stung a bit, according to Wednesday’s shooter.
“(The program) recreates the scenario, the sights and sounds, and gives the officers a chance to be there before it actually happens,” instructor Kit Cessna said.
Student responders are also trained in special entrance techniques and tools, course officials say, including battering rams and sledge hammers.