Active Shooter Tactical Training by (ALERRT)

The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center

Active Shooter Tactical Training

By: Donald J. Mihalek

Photos: Courtesy of & Diana Hendricks

In Newtown, Connecticut it took three minutes for a “weapon of mass destruction” to kill 26 people.

In Aurora, Colorado, that “weapon of mass destruction” killed 12 people and wounded dozens. Two tragedies inflicted upon society by psychopaths.

Since the Columbine shootings, law enforcement officers have learned to plan and train for these active shooter situations, learning new things from each incident. The most poignant lesson is, if law enforcement officers aren’t there or on scene quickly, its close to impossible to thwart the deadly threat.

Clearing a school by LMTPD for an active shooter

Lower Makefield Police Department Conducting Immediate Action Rapid Deployment for active shooters in a school

Since these incidents can happen anywhere, its critical for law enforcement officers to be on the same page with tactics and training. You never know when a trip to a school or mall will result in you becoming the Quick Response Force.


In the aftermath of Columbine, officers in San Marcos, Texas got together and decided that active shooter response training needed to be standardized and available to all law enforcement.

Terry Nichols, a retired San Marcos officer and now the Deputy Director of Training for ALERRT said, “We felt all officers should be trained and ready to respond and that a standard curriculum needed to be developed and taught, that was the origins of ALERRT.”

In 2002, The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University – San Marcos was created as a partnership between the Texas State University, the San Marcos Police Department and the Hays County Sheriff’s Office to address the need for active shooter response training for law enforcement.

Over the last ten years, with a little over $25 million in state and federal grant funding the ALERRT Center has trained more than 40,000 police officers nationwide.

ALERRT training is dynamic, force-on-force scenario-based active shooter training that has become the national standard.

The ALERRT Center developed and currently delivers seven (7), grant funded first responder courses across the nation. Since they are grant funded, they are free to any officer or agency willing to host the training.


Basic Active Shooter Level I:

This dynamic course is designed to prepare the first responder to isolate, distract, and neutralize an “active shooter.”

The course covers shooting and moving, threshold evaluation, concepts and principles of team movement, setting up for and room entry techniques, approach and breaching the crisis site, rescue team tactics, improvised explosive devices, and post engagement priorities. The course culminates with dynamic “force on force” scenarios

Active Shooter Level II:

Day 1 will consist of Self-Aid, Buddy-Aid techniques and Day 2 will consist of “force on force” mass casualty scenarios where the student will not only have to neutralize the gunman but also treat the wounded

First Responder Operations in Rural Terrain (FORT):

The FORT course was originally designed to assist rural law enforcement officers working along the southern border, but over the years it has proven to be beneficial to officers from any type of agency.

This “hands-on” course covers equipment selection, vehicle ambushes, medical emergencies, mounted and dismounted officer/citizen down rescue, dismounted individual movement techniques, dismounted team movement techniques, and hasty vehicle assaults.

First Responder Breaching:

The course covers the use of manual and ballistic breaching tools to gain entry into a structure under extreme exigent circumstances that demand immediate entry to save and protect innocent lives.

First Responders Operating in Low-Light Conditions:

The course incorporates the use of “force on force” drills to validate the tactics and techniques of low light operations. Topics will center on approaching a target area, low light searching techniques, low light entry methods, armed confrontations and unarmed suspect handling.

Active Shooter Train-the-Trainer:

This course will train a select group of 25 law enforcement officers who are experienced in police training and is taught by four senior instructors from the ALERRT training team. The first two days have the participants complete the basic active shooter 16 hour course. The third day is devoted to teaching methods and instructor training. The fourth and fifth days are focused on teach-backs, remediation and evaluation of the participants.

Plain Clothes Response to Violent Encounters:

This course is designed to provide officers with the knowledge, physical skills and mindset on how to respond to violent encounters, including active shooter situations, when armed but not in uniform. A key learning objective for this course is to address the increase of “blue-on-blue” shootings where uniformed law enforcement officers shoot off-duty police officers who have intervened in a situation.

Nichols points out that, “the one area many agencies haven’t had training or planned for is the Mumbai type attack, multiple shooters in different locations. ALERRT is in the process of developing a training module for just that type of incident which will include a command and control element as well as tactics, medical triage and response.”

Future Tactics:

In active shooter situations formally trained medical personnel often cannot be on the scene immediately to provide casualty care, thus responding officers must be educated and trained in immediate casualty care techniques to help save lives.

“The fate of the wounded rests with the one who applies the first dressing.” (Nicholas Senn, M.D. 1898 ) According to Terry Nichols, active shooter incidents drive home the need to train today’s first responders in medical response and triage.

Most shooting rampages end quickly; it took the Virginia Tech maniac just nine minutes to shoot 170 rounds and kill 30 people. Reports say in Newtown, just 3 minutes.

“The more prepared law enforcement can be for the shooting’s aftermath,” Nichols says, “the less lives might be lost as a result. In a mass shooting there will be many victims with traumatic injuries and there will be a need to prioritize victims and administer advanced first aid.”

Nichols continued, “We have become really good at getting cops in the door fast and stopping the violence,” Nichols emphasizes, “as a professionals we need to do better at stopping the dying.”

Practical Use / Winning Result:

ALERRT has two honor graduates, Sergeant Kimberly Munley and Sergeant Mark Todd of the Fort Hood Police Department. They responded to the active shooter on November 5, 2009 and used their ALERRT training, which is credited for their swift and effective response on that day.

ALERRT Active Shooter training has been provided to officers in Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Louisiana, Virginia and New York to name a few and includes the New York City Police Department, Dallas Police Department, Houston Police Department, San Antonio Police Department and the Atlanta Police Department.

Nichols emphasizes, “This is a grant funded program, so all an agency needs is to meet our training criteria to participate. We can bring the officers here (to the ALERRT facility) or go an agency that will host the training. The best part is its absolutely FREE to any and every agency that is interested.”

Nichols went on to say, “The best lesson learned is to be prepared. While we hope that such active shooter events will never happen in our backyards, we must be ready if they do.”

For more information on ALERRT go to or check out their Facebook and Twitter pages.

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