Active Threat Events

An Officer and Community's Worst Nightmare

It is an officer’s and a community’s worst nightmare – an active killer situation where a shooter, bomber or other threat is actively putting civilian lives in danger. When law enforcement officers step in, their lives are on the line as well as they try to protect others and secure the threat.

VirTra’s Active Threat/Active Killer (ATAK) V-VICTA® curriculum combines coursework with high quality scenarios that are based off of real-world events, such as the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. VirTra’s active shooting training scenarios have several branching options that give numerous pathways to a resolution, ensuring students learn from the consequences of their actions within the simulation.

Why Active Threat Response Training Curriculum is Necessary

Real-World Examples to Prepare Future Officers

It is not only important for officers to focus on the threat of a “shooter,” but any other active threat as well. These can include the use of IEDs, bombs and other explosives. One of the most high-profile active shooter cases actually involved the use of explosives as well – the Columbine High School Massacre. Due to faulty construction, the propane bomb failed to detonate, which likely saved many more lives which could have been lost.

In this sense, police were lucky they did not have to deal with an explosion alongside the existing tragedy that was happening in the same school. Unfortunately, there are cases where homemade explosives are correctly manufactured and cause massive damage and tragic loss of life. One example is the Boston Marathon Bombing of 2013 where two men created a pair of bombs, placing them on the finish line. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured.

In either of these instances, police not only have to worry about apprehending the suspect(s), but taking care not to detonate any other bombs. At the time of the incident, it is always uncertain how many explosive devices there actually are around the area. Law enforcement not only must protect themselves, but secure the area so civilian life is preserved. By participating in active threat response training and active shooting training for law enforcement, officers will understand what they need to do to protect and preserve lives.

Misconceptions About Active Threat / Active Killer Training & Challenges

Stay Alert, Stay Informed

It is difficult enough when police are caught dealing with an active threat, but on top of it all, there are crucial things to remember in the thick of the event. Here are just a few that officers must keep in mind as a part of their active threat training:

  • Active threats and hostage barricades are two very different events. Hostage barricades do not have a steady supply of potential victims, whereas active threat incidents tend to have a high concentration of people.
  • Not all active threats include a “shooter.” Calling these events “active shooters” may give the mindset that suspects will probably only have a gun, whereas this is not the case at all.
  • Tools and supplies are not all that is needed in preparation. While tools can assist, an officer’s mindset and decision-making skills are the true heroes. Unprepared teams can increase loss rather than mitigate it.
  • Information and intelligence are not the same. Intelligence has operational value, whereas information can be just “noise” and take up valuable air time on your radio. Make sure to share only what is important and don’t only add to the chaos.

Practice and Preparedness

Certified Curriculum on Active Shooting Training To Assist Officers

To help officers prepare for these terrible instances, VirTra created two curriculum modules designed to educate officers on how to best handle an active threat, protect civilians and minimize loss. These curricula, which fall under the Active Threat / Active Killer (ATAK) program, consist of two modules and soon to be three. 

The first active threat response training course is a 3-hour course that provides an introduction to active threats. Officers will understand the common places where active threats take place (businesses, schools, places of worship, etc.) and the history of active threats and active killers. Documentations of these incidents go back as far as 1764, but have likely existed for as long as humans have had the desire to kill. Oftentimes, looking at the history and studying what happened in the past is key to understanding the future and making preparations just in case officers face one of these tragic events.

The second Active Threat/Active Killer course covers the sequences of events during an active shooting and is heavily focused on preparation – both mentally and physically. Law enforcement must be mentally prepared for the event – if you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. Not only is mental preparation important, but active threat and active shooter training for law enforcement personnel is a crucial necessity that if neglected, can cause additional loss of life that could have been avoided if proper tactics were used.

The third is all about explosive threats and IEDs. Officers can learn everything from the types of explosives they may encounter to mitigating blast pressure in the event a bomb detonates. There is an emphasis on the importance of neutralizing the threat as quickly as possible without triggering a detonation, and one of the ways this is accomplished is through a well-placed shot to the suspect’s head. During active shooting training, officers are encouraged to practice their shot placement techniques to efficiently end the threat.

A Sneak Peek into Active Threat / Active Killer Training

See How Scenarios Work and Branch During Training

One of the most powerful VirTra active threat response training scenarios is featured below. How it works is simple: officers begin by standing inside or in front of the simulator. Once ready, the instructor fires up the scenario, which begins with a dispatch call outlining the situation. After, the scenario opens up to the school location and the officer must respond immediately to what they see.

Depending on the officer’s actions, the instructor can choose for the scenario to branch. For example, having the subject follow the officer’s commands and surrender, killing his hostage or shooting at the officer. Each active shooter training for law enforcement scenario is built with dozens of branching options to reflect your officer’s choices as well as your agency’s protocol.

This is a perfect method of teaching in a safe environment while showing trainees how to react properly to active killer events. This method of training also shows officers the consequence of their actions; if the officer de-escalates, the situation can be diffused. But if the officer reacts improperly, they can watch as the subject responds accordingly—thus receiving better, fuller training. 

Nationally-Certified Officer Curriculum

Certified Curriculum Ensures the Best Active Threat Training and Skill Transfer

Curriculum can be the difference between a good officer and a great officer. To ease the instructor’s workload while simultaneously providing the best active threat response training materials, VirTra went through the effort of having our ATAK curriculum nationally-certified through IADLEST. IADLEST’s National Certification Program sets the POST training standard for 36+ states and works to improve training nationwide. Our active threat training and active shooting training for law enforcement officers is the best out there.

By having this curriculum both POST approved and nationally-certified, departments automatically receive training hours when the curriculum is taught. Whether this curriculum is used to help veterans brush up on their skills or teach trainees the foundation, this active threat training V-VICTA® curriculum effectively prepares law enforcement members for potentially dangerous active killer events. 

V-VICTA®—VirTra’s Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy—oversees all nationally-certified curriculum, including Active Threat / Active Killer. Other certified curricula within the V-VICTA program include: Human Factors in Use of Force Encounters, De-Escalation, High Risk Vehicle Stop, and more. All V-VICTA® curriculum is free with every law enforcement simulator, saving departments ample man-hours and thousands of dollars.

For more information on VirTra’s active shooting training and active threat response training for law enforcement curriculum and how it can provide effective training for your agency, contact a VirTra specialist.