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University of Massachusetts police offer active shooter course at Amherst police station

AMHERST — University of Massachusetts police are reaching out to area schools, municipal officials and emergency management teams to provide a workshop in how to deal with active shooters.

Following the Dec. 14 incident in Newtown, Conn. in which 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, UMass police decided to offer its educational program to communities.

Deputy Police Chief Patrick Archbald said the “Response to Active Threat” program has already trained 5,000 employees and students on campus over the last four years. The educational program at UMass began after the mass shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007.

“Given the recent situation in Connecticut, and seeing there might be a need in the community, we are offering it at no cost,” Archbald said.

The first class will take place Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon at the UMass police station, 585 East Pleasant St. The second workshop will be held Jan. 3 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the same location.

The hope is that school district leaders, teachers, school employees, Parent-Teacher organizations and others will participate in the course that explores multiple ways of dealing with an active shooter, especially for those who are considered immediate responders, said Detective Lt. Ian Cyr.

“The workshop discusses changes in thinking from the standardized lockdown and shelter in place model to an options-based approach,” Cyr said.

Unlike the conventional lockdown and shelter in place, in which people are taught to contact law enforcement and hide from a shooter for their own safety, the workshop includes options-based responses that could include evacuation or confronting the shooter. Cyr said school officials can than determine if they want to implement these tactics.

A video developed by the Center for Personal Protection and Safety will review four steps people can follow in case of an active shooter, including figuring out what is happening, getting out of the area if it is safe to do so, hiding and calling police and taking out the perpetrator.

Archbald said as shooting incidents occur with more frequency and severity, active shooter courses are providing more options for those under threat, including the possibility of trying to stop the shooter before law enforcement gets to the scene. Anyone with questions or who wants to confirm attendance should send email to Cyr at ipc@admin.umass.edu

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