In the wake of mass shootings around the country, the State of Oklahoma is taking steps to be better prepared — including a focus on protecting schools. Every trooper is being trained in active shooter response and some have learned to instruct civilians how to survive if ever caught in the middle of an active shooting.
The increased emphasis on preparing for mass shootings stems from Gov. Kevin Hitt, who in June signed and executive order entitled Mission: Secure Oklahoma Schools (SOS). His administration conducted a thorough review of the procedures in place and the resources available to determine what action may be necessary to secure and safeguard the state’s schools.
After working with law enforcement leaders, the governor determined the state was “underutilizing existing resources and law enforcement should enhance its training and standards.”
“Children deserve to be safe in school. School personnel deserve to be safe in school. Parents and guardians deserve to know their child is safe in school,” Hitt wrote in the executive order.
The executive order mandates all troopers complete an Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) accredited law enforcement active shooter emergency response training by Jan. 1, 2023.
To meet that need, Oklahoma is utilizing a number of courses from Louisiana State University’s National Center for Biomedical Research and Training/Academy of Counter-Terrorism Education (NCBRT/ACE).
All Oklahoma troopers will complete NCBRT/ACE’s Law Enforcement Active Shooter Emergency Response (LASER) course. The course addresses the aspects of planning and implementing a rapid law enforcement deployment to an active shooter incident through presentations, hands-on performance-based field training, and scenario-based practical exercises.
By the end of the year, NCBRT/ACE will have completed 42 LASER classes and all 715 Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers will have been trained. Currently, 583 OHP officers already completed the training.
Officers from the Oklahoma City Police Department, Tulsa Police Department, and various other agencies throughout the state also have or will complete the training, according to a NCBRT/ACE spokesperson.
The executive order also mandates all CLEET-certified basic academies shall include the training by Jan. 1, 2023, and all other CLEET-certified officers shall be offered the active shooter response training by July 1, 2023.
Teaching The Public
Last week, OHP trained 82 of their officers from around the state in a special NCBRT/ACE course, Surviving an Active Threat: Run. Hide. Fight (RHF).
This course trains non-traditional first responders on the basic principles needed to protect themselves, their workplaces, and their communities in the event of an active threat. All officers who completed this course are now NCBRT/ACE-certified trainers and will deliver the course to civilians across the state.
“Now our troopers will be able to go out and train at schools, churches, and other businesses to let civilians know the best way to respond to an active shooter before law enforcement arrives on scene,” the highway patrol states in a social media post.
Additionally, NCBRT/ACE-certified trainers from the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security have taught an additional 306 civilians through the RHF indirect delivery program across the state so far this year.
While Oklahoma is now getting a foothold on using troopers to train the public to survive active shooters, Indiana has been doing something similar for years.
Indiana State Police’s program, Unarmed Response to an Active Shooter, has been in place since at least 2013 and is tailored based on security need – schools and buses, places of commerce, and terrorist related.
“Superintendent of State Police Doug Carter has made this a mission for the department,” says Richard Hogue, Indiana State Police corporate and school safety liaison for nearly a decade. “And we're just fortunate that, I would guess, well over 150 troopers have presented this program for free to a variety of different schools and businesses and places of worship across Indiana.”
The number of individuals trained in a single year has been as high as 19,127 in 2016 and Hogue estimates more than 80,000 people have been trained since the program’s inception.
“We've done everything from large groups to small groups. By large groups, I mean 400, 500, 600, and maybe a total of 1,000 people sometimes with some of the bigger businesses. Then we also have been doing it for small mom-and-pop shops and places of worship that are only 15 to 20 people,” explains Hogue. “So, all the credit goes to the Indiana State Police because they've invested the time and effort to train troopers to go out and provide this program.”
Hogue says the ISP Training Division has led the effort in developing the programs and currently troopers are making revisions and getting ready to release some new information on the ISP website.
“As these active shooter events occur, we try to make sure that we learn from each one and with hopes of having a better opportunity to provide a school a little more secure environment,” says Hogue.
The basic training program covers:
What Indiana has accomplished is becoming a model for others. Hogue says officials have flown in from Canada to attend the training and the state agency has been contacted by authorities from the United Kingdom and other European countries wanting to learn more.
ISP has also created several short videos, one on what to do when faced with an active shooter in a school and two regarding shooters on buses. The agency makes the videos available on its Youtube page.
In Vermont, troopers reach out to the public through SurviVermont, a program that teaches how to stay safe and help those around you during an active shooter situation.
Vermont State Police Lt. Hugh O’Donnell leads some of the courses, including one he taught recently in Chittenden County. He tells WCAX the training pulls materials from three federal programs, giving people basic information on what to do in active shooter situations and other emergencies.
In Indiana, troopers teach:
- See Something, Say Something
- Run, Hide, Fight
- Stop the Bleed.
O’Donnell says businesses and schools accounted for most active shooter situations from 2000 to 2017 and places of worship made up 4% of the attacks in that time frame. Representatives from several churches were in attendance at his recent training.
He teaches things such as how to break a window, make a tourniquet, and how to recognize suspicious activity.
“Seconds make a big difference if you already have the mindset, some knowledge in your head,” O’Donnell says.
Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) works with parents, students, and school staff to provide information that can prepare people in case they ever face an active shooter situation. PSP offers a classroom-based presentation that focuses on:
- Different mental strategies and response tactics
- Active shooter statistics, trends, and real incidents
- The basics of the federally suggested actions of “Run, Hide, Fight.”
Police, on the PSP website, say this presentation may be most appropriate for school staff and administration.