The FBI will hold active shooter training drills at sports stadiums as part of a massive program to prepare for what the agency says is a growing concern for law enforcement.
Thirty thousand agents will take part in the training sessions, which will also help prepare officers for active-shooter situations at businesses, schools and public places, according to the USA Today.
The FBI began developing the project after the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., according to FBI deputy director Mark Giuliano.
Giuliano told USA Today that 200 FBI agents will help conduct the two-day training sessions, which will be held all around the U.S. and in Puerto Rico, making it the agency’s largest such effort.
With a completion date only 18 months down the road, newly-minted trainees are being thrust into instructor roles soon after completing their sessions.
Sports stadiums will be one focus of the program, as both operators and authorities worry the venues are a prime target for gunmen bent on achieving mass casualties.
“They have asked us for our assistance,” Giuliano told USA Today of sports venue operators. He did not specify which teams and which sports leagues have requested the help.
The FBI has partnered with Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center on the program, with one goal being to shave mere seconds off police response times and threat identification and elimination.
“You have to stop the threat. That means urging first responding officers to move quickly toward the gunfire. That’s hard to do, even if you are a law enforcement officer,” Terry Nichols, the assistant director of Texas State’s rapid response training center, told USA Today.
Though the shooting at Newtown — where 26 children and teachers were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school — served as the catalyst for the program, the FBI found additional evidence to support the new training effort.
Reviewing shooting incidents from between 2000 and 2013, the agency found that mass shooting incidents went from 6.4 per year in the first half of the review to 16.4 in the second half, according to USA Today.
Though two-thirds the 160 incidents included in the FBI study came to an end before law enforcement arrived on the scene — either because the shooter committed suicide, fled, or was stopped by a citizen — Giuliano believes that the training will save at least some lives.
“I would say that even if we were able to respond (in time to confront the attacker) 20% of the time, this training would be worth it,” Giuliano told USA Today. “It’s really hard to say how many lives can be saved. But there is no question in my mind that when an officer engages, it makes a difference. No question.”