It may be the one scenario colleges hope to never encounter, but two La Crosse campuses are preparing for it anyway.
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Western Technical College have been coordinating active shooter trainings for years, but this week for the first time, they will co-host the training. It's also the first time the training will integrate officials other than police -- firefighters, EMS and 911 dispatchers are also taking part in the sessions.
Neither have ever had an active shooter on campus, but in April, a UW-L student was arrested after carrying an unloaded shotgun on campus. In May, police responded to what was reported as shots fired at Western, but the noise turned out to be part of a class project.
UW-L emergency dispatcher Kim Dearman said she vividly remembers the day she received calls of a shooter on campus.
"Lots of different emotions going through you at the same time," Dearman recounted of her experience working during the April 12 incident, which ultimately ended without a threat. "I was definitely scared. I was trying to keep track of my officers that weren't on campus that day."
Dearman said communication between first responders, firefighters and different police factions was difficult throughout the incident, a sentiment La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer agreed with.
"It happened so quickly, it was hard to integrate everybody into the situation," Tischer said. "That's why it's important to get the training for first responders, so they're working onthe same page with the police officers to resolve the situation."
Both are hoping the week's training will help law enforcement officials come together quickly and work cohesively to address situations like live shootings. Emergency response agencies from La Crosse, Juneau, Trumpeleau, Monroe and Vernon counties are participating in the training that will include both class-like seminars and hands-on staged incidents. Monday's session focused on rescuing injured victims in a potentially unsafe classroom setting.
"It's a very unique scenario for law enforcement officers to experience, especially on a college campus," Western's Law Enforcement Training Coordinator Kellie McElroy said in a statement. "You can talk about what you would do in the situation, but until you're in it, you can't really visualize all of the possibilities."
The trainings will take place in various buildings across the UW-L campus from Monday, July 29 through Thursday, August 1.