Active shooter response training held in Rushford this month

Chad Smith

Don’t panic if you see the Rushford-Peterson schools parking lot full of squad cars later this month.

The FBI plans to hold an “Active Threat Training Session” at the R-P School August 19-20, and another August 21-22.

That week, trainers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will be using the R-P facility to teach area law enforcement officers techniques for responding to an active shooter.

Recent mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, have made one thing clear: those tragedies can happen anywhere, even small towns like Rushford and Peterson. Shortly after the 2012 shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., the Federal Bureau of Investigation started looking at ways it could assist local law enforcement in being better prepared for those threats.

“I was first approached last fall with the idea of hosting a session,” said Rushford-Peterson High School/Middle School Principal Jake Timm. “Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge was the first one to ask about the school hosting an FBI Active Threat Training Session for area law enforcement.

“They’ll be using the school building as a site to do some active shooter response training,” he said. “It will actually be two different two-day training sessions. Monday and Tuesday, August 19-20, will be the first session. The second session is Wednesday and Thursday, August 21-22, when they repeat the training.”

DeGeorge said the FBI will run the entire training sessions and provide all the necessary equipment at no cost to local law enforcement. DeGeorge said the project got off the ground when the FBI reached out to him to see if they’d be interested in hosting a session.

The first day of each session takes place in a classroom setting, while the second day is live training. The instructors run some simulated active shooter situations to teach local law enforcement on how to respond. The sessions will be held in a different part of the school, away from school staff members.

“During the live training, we use something called Simunition, or simulated ammunition,” DeGeorge says. “It’s a training weapon that’s identical to our service revolvers and rifles that we carry every day. However, it doesn’t shoot bullets. Instead, it shoots a small marking round (to help establish accuracy). We train with a gun that weighs and feels the same and functions the same as our weapons. It’s going to have a big pop when we fire them, just like real guns.”

DeGeorge says a good description of the training is a “dynamic course of instruction designed to prepare officers to isolate, distract, and neutralize an active shooter.” He doesn’t yet know what the FBI course entails, but DeGeorge has similar experiences in his law enforcement background.

“What I think we’ll be doing is starting from the ground up on what the FBI process is for dealing with an active shooter,” DeGeorge said, “whether it’s in a school, a business, or anywhere else that we may have something like that happen. I think they’ll start the training at the point where we first get the 911 call that this type of thing is happening.

“From that moment on, this is how you respond,” he added. “The course will involve shooting on the move, evaluating the situation for the use of force, principles of moving as a team, as well as communication on the move. We’ll also learn how to set up when we’re going into a room. It even looks like we may train on how to handle Improvised Explosive Devices. We’ll also train on what to do after the threat is neutralized.”

DeGeorge had some similar types of experiences when he worked on the Fillmore County Tactical Response Team. The tactical team learned how to respond to different scenarios like a search warrant entry during dangerous incidents, as well as how to execute drug raids. “None of this will necessarily be new but it’s always interesting to find out about new equipment and new techniques in law enforcement,” DeGeorge said.

As the event draws closer, Timm said they’ll be taking more steps to let the public know what’s happening. “I’ll be putting a reminder about the training on the school’s Facebook page very soon,” Timm said. “We just want people to know they don’t need to panic if they see two dozen police and law enforcement vehicles sitting at the school. It’s just a training session.

“It’s amazing that we have to think about things like this happening at schools,” Timm said. “My thought is what a great thing this is for local law enforcement to know the ins-and-outs of our school buildings. It’s also really good for our local officers to form relationships with the FBI. As scary as it is to think about something like this, you’ll have more people that know our building and I have more contacts to get a hold of to train our staff.”

DeGeorge says times have changed because there were no mass shooting events like this 20 years ago. It was almost an unheard-of event. Since the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado several years ago, it’s changed the way law enforcement trains.

The training session won’t include any school staff members. “The training will be segregated to the upper floors of the middle and high school and let them have the room they need,” Timm said. “They’ll use our classrooms for the first day and then they set up simulations. They’ll have some firearms with blanks, and it’ll be loud.”

Timm added, “They told me that we’ll know they’re up there. However, I feel the more good guys that know our building, the better.”

Sheriff DeGeorge added, “We can’t sit back and hope nothing bad happens. We have to be ready.”