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What Do You Do In An Active Shooter Situation?

Lynda Gonzalez
KUT News
State troopers monitor the road leading to the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, where a gunman killed 26 people on Nov. 5.

Law officers from across the country came to the Hill Country this week to learn how to respond to active shooters like the one that killed 26 people at a Texas church last weekend.

The leader of the Texas State University program, Pete Blair, says each active shooter situation is different. 

"There's a lot of variety in these events," says Blair, executive director of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) program, which wrapped up its annual conference on Thursday. "In some, there are relatively few people who are injured or killed and in others, there are a lot of people who are injured or killed."

It was the latter last Sunday at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs: In addition to the 26 killed, 20 others were wounded in the tiny town.

Blair says that no matter the size of the attack, the first priority doesn't change.  Officers who go through the ALERRT program are taught to immobilize the shooter first before taking care of the wounded.  

"There are a lot of things happening at once and a lot of possible things competing for their attention," Blair says.

ALERRT also teaches officers how to train civilians to respond in the event of an active shooter. Blair says there are three simple rules:  

  • Avoid. "Pay attention to your surroundings," he said. Have an exit plan and try to move away from the threat as quickly as possible.  
  • Deny. "If for some reason you can't avoid the attacker — you're in an office, you hear gunfire in the hallway and you're worried if you go out there, you might be shot — the next best step is to deny access to your location," Blair said. "Keep them from getting to you. Close and lock the doors."
  • Defend. "Try to keep them from killing you."  

Learn more about these steps.

Pete Blair teaches criminal justice and is the executive director of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University in San Marcos

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.