ALERRT receives funding from Homeland Security for new medical program

Assistant News Editor

Texas State’s active shooter training center is now expanding to teach police officers key medical skills that will help victims more quickly during massive emergency situations.

The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center received a $1 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to fund the medical training program, said Terry Nichols, assistant director of the center. The new program will train police officers in critical medical skills that will help them treat wounded victims in mass shootings while waiting for Emergency Medical Services to arrive, Nichols said. Police officers will be able to work with EMS and firefighters to help victims more quickly, which is called “integrated response.”

This program will be the first of its kind in the nation, Nichols said.

“Other agencies have been doing this among themselves, but this is going to be the first national standard one to go out, so we’re excited that DHS selected Texas State University to be at the front,” Nichols said. “We’re quickly being sought out as some of the national experts in this field.”

Under the cooperative agreement, ALERRT will work hand in hand with DHS as the program is developed, Nichols said. After the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, ALERRT officials started training police officers how to properly handle into similar situations and “quickly stop the violence,” Nichols said.

“About four or five years ago, we noticed that the cops were getting good at that, but what’s happening in the interim is that people who were shot or wounded were laying there, effectively dying, while EMS was staged outside waiting for the cops to do what they do,” Nichols said.

It is important to have as many people as possible trained and prepared to respond and save lives, said Howard Williams, San Marcos police chief.

“Any training that we can get that’s going to help save people’s lives is a positive,” Williams said. “The bottom line is to keep people alive.”

The training program will be a three-day course certified by DHS, Nichols said.

“(This) is a big deal. You don’t just get a course certified by DHS—it takes a lot of work,” Nichols said.

They will deliver the course in 13 places across the country, Nichols said.

The goal is to have courses begin this summer, Nichols said. The class will be designed to hold 20 police officers and 20 EMS personnel and firefighters, he said.

The new training will “bridge that gap” and allow for a common terminology and training so police, firefighters and EMS understand what everyone is doing, said Will Schwall, level II adjunct instructor at ALERRT.

“I’m looking forward to the joint multi-jurisdictional training aspect of it,” Schwall said. “Typically, fire, police and EMS just don’t get together and do training.”

Over the three-day course, police officers will be trained eight hours a day, Schwall said.

Since the training is mobile, officers will be going to different departments across the country and allowing police to train with their local fire departments and EMS to build a relationship, Nichols said.