Area police officers received specialized training on how to respond to and coordinate efforts in an active shooter situation this week, thanks to a free law enforcement education program.

Peace officers from Denison, Gunter, the Texas Department of Public Safety and other departments took part in the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program. The two-day course was held at B. McDaniel Intermediate School in Denison on Thursday and Friday and tested officers with real-world scenarios that included armed suspects, nonlethal ammunition, live victims and simulated injuries.

“The reason for this training and why it’s so important is that if an incident like this happened in the community, multiple jurisdictions and officers are going to respond to it,” ALERRT Instructor and Hays County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Douglas Ross Herrington said. “This training here puts everybody on the same page, the same sheet of music, so that we can go in here, we all understand the tactics and the principals we’re trying to accomplish and we’re going to get this done much more efficiently.”

Herrington said the ALERRT program was established in San Marcos in 2000 and has since gained popularity across the nation. He said the program offers all levels of law enforcement, from the street to department administration, the knowledge needed to handle active shooter situations. Herrington added that Friday’s simulations in the school was meant to prepare officers for difficult decisions and what could be the worst call of their careers.

“There’s probably no more stressful situation for an officer to face, than having to go in there and deal with this,” Herrington said. “One of these violators, one of these suspects may be young. It may be a young person that these officers may have to deal with in a deadly-force encounter. And that’s obviously something we don’t want to do, but, if called upon, we have to do it.”

The participants engaged in two scenarios during their training, the first of which revolved around an angry and armed spouse of a school employee. The second scenario was modeled after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, in which 15 students, including the two gunmen, were killed. Officers cleared rooms and hallways and engaged armed suspects in the simulation, but the primary focus of Friday’s exercise was providing emergency medical care to victims after the scene was secured.

“Once we end the threat, that’s when the real work begins,” Herrington said. “Now, we’ve got to start saving all these victims in here, applying the medical (skills), stopping the bleeding and doing the best for these folks and getting them out of here as quickly as possible and to get them that higher level of care.”

Denison Police Department Patrol Officer Jae Ricketts said the simulation was chaotic but all the more realistic and preparatory for its inclusion of unpredictable suspects, gunshots and prosthetic blood and injuries.

“It’s a lot of loud noises, people screaming, other officers giving orders, a lot of moving parts,” Ricketts said. “It’s really great training to be able to go through it on a live basis.”

Ricketts said police officers are often well-versed on the law and the procedures of their respective departments, but he said the ALERRT training provided him with the ability to better communicate with other law enforcement officials in an emergency and assist with potentially life-threatening injuries.

“I feel more well-rounded for a situation that does happen like this,” Ricketts said.