It's the question that's been on many people's minds for the last week: What can be done to stop another tragedy, like the one in Newtown, from happening? Police officers in Ithaca are preparing for just that, with new training against active shooters. YNN's Tamara Lindstrom shows us how officers are learning to stop a shooter single-handedly, if they have to. We want to warn you, although the bullets aren't real, the following video of a realistic training session may be upsetting to some viewers.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- At a training facility in Ithaca, it's a prelude to every officer's worst nightmare.
"Shots fired. First floor cafeteria," is called out over the radio.
A shooter barricades the door, and opens fire in a crowded room. A scene played out all too often, but one Ithaca police officers are preparing to face.
"The whole goal is to get in between the gunshots and the innocent people," said officer and trainer John Arsenault.
Every officer in the Ithaca Police Department spent two days in an Active Shooting training course last week, endorsed by the Department of Homeland Security. It's program that reflects the changing protocol in law enforcement agencies nationwide.
"With the incident at Columbine, we found that we can't wait any longer," Arsenault said. "We can't wait for a tactical team. We have to be prepared to go in by ourselves, if somebody's not right with us."
"It's absolutely critical," said Sgt. Jacob Young, training coordinator for the department. "Because as we found out from past experiences, seconds matter. Every second could be one or two or several lives lost."
The training scenarios are set up to be as real as possible, so that officers know exactly what to expect when entering a situation like this, and even when to ignore their best instincts.
"In one of these incidents, there's going to be tons of people coming out at you asking you for help," Arsenault said. "And you have to have a mindset that you may have to walk past injured or dying people. Because if you stop to help these people that may be injured, and there's still active killing going on, more people are losing their lives."
Officers say the training has prepared them in ways they never expected.
"Every location that I may go into, I think about different options that I may have when I enter, whether I'm on duty or off duty," Arsenault said. "And who may be around to help, where I can tell people to go to self-evacuate."
Arsenault says he's confident that he, or any one of his fellow officers, is ready to face a shooter, even if they have to do it alone.
Ithaca Police have more reality-based training scheduled for January. While the Active Shooter training isn't mandatory nationwide yet, the officers who are now certified trainers said they'd be happy to help train other departments.