PASADENA, Texas — First responders across the state are sharpening their active shooter response skills and learning new techniques ahead of the new school year.
Many school district officers go through annual active shooter training as part of their job. Now, it is mandatory.
Following the school massacre at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott required Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training for first responders at all public schools.
Pasadena ISD invited KHOU 11 News to watch a team tasked with training people to respond. The course includes classroom training and active shooter drills.
One session involved a staged suspect who entered the school and shot several people. Pasadena ISD officer Victoria Garcilazo was one of the responding officers in the drill.
“I start thinking about the school’s layout, all the information dispatch has given us,” Garcilazo said.
ALERRT, a program developed in Texas and adopted by the FBI as the national standard, creates real-life scenarios that force officers to focus and make split-second decisions, sometimes while under fire.
“They get your blood flowing. You're pretty pumped. It's pretty nerve-wracking,” Garcilazo said.
The training is intense, even for officers who know the drill.
One participant, Pasadena police officer Bobby Keen, is a 39-year law enforcement veteran.
“Each time, we learn something new,” Keen said. “It still brings up your heart rate, your blood pressure brings in the tunnel vision, and it puts your senses on overload.”
ALERRT equips first responders with strategies on how to respond to active attacks. The training program includes three phases.
- Stop the killing by eliminating or apprehending the shooter
- Stop the dying by treating the critically injured
- Rapid casualty evacuation, which is moving others out of harm’s way
ALERRT adjunct instructor, Lt. John Dombrowa, said officers are taught that saving lives is the priority, even if it means putting their own at risk.
“It's a critical aspect of training. You don’t want somebody to be faced with that situation live the first time ever, never having trained it in any way whatsoever,” Dombrowa said.
He said it's a technique that comes with this experience and practice.
“I will tell any officer that that process does not stop until you leave the profession, and maybe not even after that,” Dombrowa said.
KHOU 11 News asked the governor’s office about specifics, such as where the recently required ALERRT training will be held and when. They did not answer those questions. They instead referred us to the ALERRT program.
According to the most recent District Audit Report on Texas schools (2017 –2020), of the 1,022 districts reviewed, only 200 had a viable active shooter policy. Of the remaining 822 districts, 626 did not.