SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The recent mass shootings in Buffalo, Laguna Woods, and Uvalde have some wondering about their safety and ability to survive a mass shooting event and whether active shooter training is truly effective.

Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) is a program that was started at Texas State University in 2002 in response to the Columbine shooting on April 20, 1999. Initially, ALERRT was used to train law enforcement officers across the nation to respond to dangerous, active threat situations rapidly.

The training was expanded in 2004. The Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) provides a strategy known as Avoid, Deny, Defend (ADD) to help increase awareness and help save lives in crisis situations. These training exercises also extend to school districts, with slight modifications.

In 2013, the FBI announced that ALERRT is the national standard through which they train all their agents. In addition, many other states have adopted ALERRT as their state standard for responding to active attacks.

Johnathan Ponder, Training Director and PIO for the Shreveport City Marshall’s Office, shared insight this week into what the training consists of and why it is essential.

How frequently should training runs happen?

We encourage that training should be at least once a year, and every new employee should receive some active shooter/attack/threat training. We also encourage not only schools but all businesses and churches to have CRASE training and conduct some type of active shooter drills. Especially since 50% of all active shooter incidents happen in the commerce locations compared to just 10% or less, depending on the year for education locations.

Is every grade/age level in school getting the same training or would high school training differ? If there is a difference, what do those differences consist of?

Every educational grade level should receive the training and participate in the drills. The fundamentals do not change for grade levels. However, there will be a difference between elementary and high school students regarding teachers’ involvement. For example, an elementary teacher may have to direct the students more than a high school teacher.

Should the training always consist of an armed assailant simulation, or is it ok to just perform the lockdown drill to assess the readiness of the people in the building?

Training doesn’t always have to consist of an armed assailant. The CRASE course helps prepare and plan for an incident, while drills help you practice your plan. Armed assailants for drills are beneficial to help create or increase stress response to the drill. We understand it’s often not practical to have armed assailants during every drill and think just lockdown drills are sufficient as long as the drills are taken seriously.

Not everyone is sold on the need for active shooter drills, especially in schools. Researchers at the Violence Project say the training may do more harm than good, especially with the added stress that the drills create for younger people.

One data point of note is that most people who commit “mass shootings” at schools tend to be younger and familiar with the drills. Ponder says that does not change the need for and value of the training.

How effective are these drills if mass school shooters trend younger and have more than likely experienced the runs themselves?

The idea that shooters tend to be younger isn’t exactly a true statement. The shooters range from teens to their 80s. In 2020, out of the 40 active shooter incidents, 16 were in their 30s. Regardless of the age of the assailant, the drills are still effective. Another point is that the drills change as active shooter trends change. One thing that hasn’t changed is that shooters tend to want to kill quickly and as many people as possible, so having the CRASE course and drills helps prepare and limit civilian casualties.

Is this training overkill if there are two mass shooting events per year on average? 

There were 60 active shooter incidents in 2021 and 40 in 2020. Just like fire drills and tornado drills, active shooter training and drills are very important. Hopefully, with more training and drills, the number of active shooter casualties will lower just as fire deaths did with an increase in training and drills. The number of incidents aside, training like CRASE not only prepares someone for active shooter events, it also helps prepare someone for disaster response, which helps increase their chances of survival.

Do you believe that these drills can traumatize children – making them fear something that has less probability of happening than a lightning strike?

I don’t believe it traumatizes the children, especially with the right training. If anything, it helps the children prepare for the future and they are ready any time disasters strike.

The Louisiana Department of Education has extensive guidance to help school districts develop and implement safety procedures in the event an armed intruder breaches campus security.