If you drove by Nandua High School Thursday and wondered why so many law enforcement vehicles were there, it was due to a multi agency training exercise for an active shooter situation.
Law enforcement from the Accomack and Northampton County Sheriff’s Offices, Onley Police, US Fish and Wildlife, ODU Police, Exmore Police and the National Park Service took part in the training Thursday conducted by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services as the result of funding from Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Active Shooter Response Training Program.
“We go all over the state teaching law enforcement and citizens,” said Alan Chambers. “After the Virginia Beach shooting, the administration said we really need to start training our citizens… so they spun up a citizen training program going from Lee County to the Eastern Shore. This year, Governor Youngkin released $2.4 million for the Active Attack Program.”
Chambers is retired from the Virginia State Police, and was actually shot conducting a search warrant in Accomac in 2003.
The funding enabled more equipment to be purchased and more training, including cross jurisdictional training in the event of an active shooter situation.
“This class teaches law enforcement the basic fundamentals,” Chambers added. “Every police agency has some type of training, the problem comes when we have 1, 2 or 3 departments in a building like this and they’ve never trained together.”
Accomack County Sheriff Todd Wessells, who coordinated the training at Nandua High School, said the collaborative training was the goal.
“Hopefully it never happens here, but in a situation like this, you’re going to have town, federal, state and county [law enforcement] all coming,” said Sheriff Wessells. “I just feel so fortunate these guys can bring this training.”
Thursday’s class was the first of four scheduled for the Eastern Shore. The first two are for collaborative law enforcement, and the next two will be training for law enforcement and first responders, like fire and EMS.
“Hopefully you can avoid it. If you can’t avoid it, you’re going to need to deny it some way, and what does that look like?” said Chambers when asked what citizens should do if they find themselves in such a situation. “Maybe locking the doors, turn the lights out, find something to get behind. If the attacker is in the room and you can’t deny it any further, then you have the legal right to protect yourself. It could be somebody grabbing a fire extinguisher and hitting them. You have a legal right to do that, but emotionally and mentally, can you do that? Some people can’t, and that’s fine, but you need to have a plan for that up front.”
ALEERT embraces a whole-of -Community approach by providing consistent, evidence-based training to all law enforcement agencies and civilians to neutralize and survive attacks. All law enforcement agencies, private and public learning institutions, and faith-based organizations are eligible to register for in-person trainings hosted statewide, or virtual course offerings.
This comprehensive approach to emergency response and recovery reinforces the fact that public safety responders are one part of the nation’s emergency management team and civilians can support response efforts when properly equipped with knowledge on what to do in active attack scenarios. The ALERRT program was named the National Standard in Active Shooter Response Training by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
More information on the ALERRT program including upcoming courses offered is available at https://www.dcjs.virginia.gov/virginia-center-school-and-campus-safety/active-attack-program.