ON ALERT: Fergus Falls police along with other area law enforcement regularly train for the possibility of an active shooter event at Fergus Falls Public Schools.

In light of recent events nationally with mass shootings, especially at schools, it has come to people’s minds — could it happen in Fergus Falls or Otter Tail County?

Are county and local law enforcement prepared and do they perform extensive active shooter training in the event of a mass shooting, or even stopping one before it would ever occur? These are questions that were posed to Fergus Falls Public Safety Chief Kile Bergren.

Bergren said that law enforcement engages in training almost annually. “We do training with the school in some fashion or another, and have for at least the last 10 or 12 years. The one thing we don’t talk about is what our plans are or how we train because we know from other active shooting incidents that the shooters will actually do research prior to the event. We keep that confidential because of that,” said Bergren.

Bergren said his department trains with the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office, and Fergus Falls Fire Department to always be physically and mentally ready for an active shooter incident.

They train using the run, hide and fight scenario. Run to find an accessible escape path and route outside of the area or building. Hide only if there are no other options — it is recommended to search for a place to hide where an active shooter is less likely to find you. Fight as a last option, only when one’s life is in danger.

The department is also trained in the ALICE response as well, which stands for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.” Bergren stated that they don’t use all the steps in ALICE for current training, but do incorporate some aspects.

“The philosophy and training that we provide the school district, teachers and the faculty, is on the ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ premise. They’re very similar, ALICE and Run, Hide, Fight, but we feel that the latter is easier to remember and everything is in order. From a training perspective, it’s easier to teach,” added Bergren.

Bergren says their training is constantly evolving, “We look at case studies from other events that have happened in the past and see what types of things went wrong and what went well. Then we look at it to see if we need to change our plans or actions to prevent, mitigate or respond to those events.”

Because of this Bergren also stated that they do not announce their training or have drills publicly.

“We also look at what the shooter has done in past events. Most of these shooters are preparing for weeks to months prior to an attack. The shooter may be doing their own research on other incidents. We focus on the behaviors of the past shooters just to give us an edge and prepare to respond better,” said Bergren.

Identifying possible shooters who are planning something is a big component as well. Bergren said they also encourage friends or family to report any type of social media postings referencing the planning of an event as well.

“You can’t dismiss things, you have to take them at face value and you have to respond appropriately. People have this false sense that it’s just kids being kids and they’re saying things, or that it wouldn’t happen in our community. But we’ve also taken the stance that anytime you make any type of threat about a school it has to be taken seriously, and we’re going to follow up on that threat immediately.”

This is an enterprise article on the topic of school safety.

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