A change in mindset when dealing with active shooters

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — When lives are at stake and every second counts, it’s the only choice officers have.

Here in central Illinois…police aren’t just trained on the skills, but also the state of mind.

This weekend, dozens were killed when shooters opened fire at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas…and a busy neighborhood in Dayton, Ohio.

The news has people all over central Illinois feeling rattled, including here in central Illinois.

The response from first responders during an active shooting can mean the difference between life and death. We learned how a change in mindset changes everything.

Officers are now learning to expect active shootings. Instead of seeing it as a rare circumstance, they’re treating it as a very real possibility.

The PTI instructor who leads active shooter training, Jeff Vercler, told us if officers can’t rise up to the challenge, they should consider another job.

“Back in 1996, I went through PTI. I was in this very classroom in fact. We didn’t talk about active shooter back then. It wasn’t a topic that was known about,” said Vercler.

Now, it’s a topic many people worry about, and at the heart of political debate.

It’s happening all over the country…in schools, churches, stores, bars, and busy areas of town.

It’s happened in central Illinois.

That’s why Vercler tells new officers…”you cannot train enough for a job that can kill you.”

In today’s day and age, it’s not a question of if…It’s a matter of when.

“Every officer that goes through here needs to face himself in the mirror or herself in the mirror and say can I go in, and can I do this.”

Jeff Vercler, PTI

His students aren’t the only ones learning how to respond to active shooters.

Many school leaders, like Stacey Cherny, are getting the skills too.

“So in our mindset, we’re just preparing as though something will eventually happen,” said Cherny.

The U of I grad used to teach in Champaign.

She’s a principal in Pennsylvania now, but she says, everyone can benefit from knowing how to keep themselves and others safe.

“It can be a little scary to think about what possibly could happen, but at the same time you feel a sense of empowerment, because there is a plan in place,” said Cherny.

Vercler says people should feel confident in the quality of active shooter training officers get at PTI, but he hopes every police department prioritizes the money and resources needed to keep those life-saving skills sharp.

Vercler says if you ever find yourself in an active shooter situation, first, stay calm.

Escape if you can. If you can’t, find a place to lock yourself away and hide.

If you come face-to-face with a gunman, grab anything around you that could be used as a weapon and be prepared to fight for your life.

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