Virtual training helps prepare first responders for active shooter situations

Former deputy, fire chief part of federal effort to prepare

HOUSTON - After every mass shooting, there's renewed focus on safety and security, including training first responders on how to react to an active shooter situation.

From taking down the suspect to treating the wounded, a coordinated response saves lives.

Two former first responders are leading a national training program to prepare law enforcement and emergency agencies across the country for an active shooter assault.

Bill Godfrey, a former deputy fire chief, and Ron Otterbach, a former SWAT team member, have more than 50 years of experience between them.

"It's a way, not the way," Otterbach said. "It's over and over and over again, working next to fire service and EMS (emergency medical services) where they're not isolated."

The three-day sessions use virtual simulated scenarios designed and developed through trial and error.

"On day one, it's very simple scenarios with low numbers," Godfrey said. "By the time we end on day three, we work them up to multiple attackers, attacking an airport at the same time."

Their company, C3Pathways, is limited to 12 sessions a year, funded by Homeland Security.

The training scenarios are inspired by active shooter events, from the Aurora theater in Colorado to the high school in Parkland, Florida.

"I think this works because of the practice," Godfrey said. "What we found using the simulation was a way to drive those exercises in a controlled environment with 50 or 60 people over and over and over again, until the light comes on."

The light, according to Otterbach, creates a "eureka moment" for the men and women in the training sessions.

The class provides an incident management checklist that presents a response lineup from incident command to the designated rescue task force.

While the training sessions have been successful, both men admit the biggest challenge they face is meeting the demand for the training.

"The need far outstrips the available funding both from Homeland Security to deliver the classes," Godfrey said. "It's a huge commitment and it's expensive and the need is significant."

The agencies need to make the first responders available for the classes and, Godfrey said, for smaller agencies it is a difficult juggling act.

Otterbach said the other challenge they face is convincing the various agencies that "there may be a better way to do it."

The C3Pathways training teams have already completed sessions with law enforcement and emergency agencies in the Northeast and West Coast.

"We're finding that a lot of agencies want the training but they really don't know what they need. They go back, rewrite their policies, and hopefully we made a difference," Otterbach said.

Click here for more information on the training program.

This article is courtesy of WKMG-TV.

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