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After Fort Hood tragedy, experts recommend changes to active-shooter training

Apr. 3, 2014 - 03:28PM   |  
Active Shooter Drill at MCB Quantico
Active Shooter Drill at MCB Quantico: Active Shooter Drill at MCB Quantico
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An airman provides security down a hallway during active shooter training at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, in February. (Airman 1st Class Joshua D. King/Air Force)

A prominent security expert believes the U.S. military should expand its active-shooter training to include the people who may be trapped in such a situation, not just the law-enforcement forces who respond.

Shootings, such as the incident that claimed four lives Wednesday at Fort Hood, Texas, typically last no longer than 12 minutes — and it takes first responders an average of 14 minutes to arrive on scene, said Chris Grollnek, a security consultant with Countermeasure Consulting Group in Frisco, Texas.

“What is the point of spending the money on first responders if they’re not going to get there until two minutes after it’s done?” said Grollnek, a former Marine staff sergeant and SWAT team member.

Instead, Grollnek believes people need to be trained to leave an area immediately if they hear gunshots rather than waiting to investigate. He has experienced two shooting incidents in which bystanders froze because they were in awe of what was happening.

“If you hear a gunshot, you don’t want to stop and say, ‘Wow, I think that’s a gunshot;’ you want to just get up and start moving, just like you would if you said, ‘Wow, I smell smoke,’ ” he said.

As first responders go, the Defense Department needs to standardize how the services train to respond to active-shooter incidents and work with civilian law enforcement agencies, said John Curnutt, director of training for the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program at Texas State University.

Soldiers from the 720th Military Police Battalion at Fort Hood took part in the program’s active-shooter training from March 24 to 27, according to the Fort Hood Sentinel.

Interest in active-shooter training surged after the first shooting at Fort Hood in November 2009, when Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded 31 others. Hasan was later sentenced to death.

“Right after Fort Hood, we saw a bunch of military bases contacting us saying, ‘Hey, we need to do something about active shooter;’ but no one was doing the same thing — I mean they were all calling different vendors and getting different systems and there was unified approach, standardized approach,” Curnutt told Military Times on Thursday.

“People were kind of coming up with their own thing,” he added. “If it’s going to work, it’s got to work across interdisciplinary boundaries. We can’t have all these different people with different sheets of music showing up and expected to work pretty fluid.”

In Curnutt’s experience with the military, each unit, installation and branch of service has a different response to active shooter situations. He believes the services need a template that each unit can tweak so that everyone understands how military and civilian law enforcement agencies should work together.

“Obviously this is an issue that will not go away,” he said.

Active-shooter training teaches first responders how to react in a real-life event, but the key to be successfully prepared, security officers should train periodically so they can keep their skills sharp, said retired Army Master Sgt. Scott Hyderkhan, who wrote the book “The Active Shooter Response Training Manual.”

The training is typically conducted once a year or once every two years, Hyderkhan told Military Times. In addition to that training, Hyderkhan advocates that small-unit leaders frequently practice how to shoot, move and communicate.

“Some of those tasks are everyday tasks that just make a better tactical officer like bounding overwatch: One officer would cover while the other one moves; and they move; and then the next officer moves; it’s like a leapfrog,” said HyderKhan, currently a police officer in Washington state.

“Those techniques,” he added, “can be utilized during a duty day in other situations, such as a high risk felony stop, where you have two cars stopped in a high risk situation and an officer has to clear that car. Well one officer is going to cover while the other moves.”

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