MOVING FORWARD: Law enforcement sees increase in active shooter training requests
On a quiet weekday evening, adults occupy the chairs normally reserved for the kids at Key to Life Christian Childlife and Community Center in Weston.
Their education? Active shooter training.
"We thought, 'hey, we should make sure we're taking care of every aspect, including safety," said Tarah Beduze, Director of Key to Life Christian. "Parents leave them here all day, we need to make sure they're safe."
The Everest Metro Police Department is conducting this particular class. It's a harsh reality in today's society-- always be prepared for the worst.
"To educate and just go over with the staff of the center here," said Captain Shane Heilmann, Everest Metro PD, "Just some basic concepts in regards to responding to an active shooter, or an active killer in certain situations."
Since last March 22nd, requests for active shooter training have increased immensely-- locally, statewide and nationally. But here back home, it can put a strain on the departments.
"We've seen an abundant request, from all around the county, to the point where I've almost got a deputy full-time now, going out and conducting these security and safety checks," said Sheriff Scott Parks, Marathon County Sheriff's Office.
Wausau Police Chief Ben Bliven adds, "I was talking to a business owner just today about active shooter training, and what they told me was that they hadn't really given much thought to it. But with March 22nd last year, it sort of put it on their radar that this isn't a big city phenomenon.
"Safety is our number one priority," said Robin Hegg, Senior V.P./Chief Human Resources Officer at River Valley Bank.
It wasn't long after March 22nd when River Valley Bank began to think ahead. Between September and December, employees at all 15 locations went through the training class.
"Awareness and preparedness save lives," Hegg added. "Not talking about it, you could have an employee who either freezes in the situations, or panics."
"Teachers stay calm, the students will stay calm," Beduze said. "It's like practicing for a fire. Just like we practice for a tornado. Sometimes bad things happen. We just practice to stay safe."
Sometimes, the classes need to be scheduled after an officer's normal shift. Working long hours to make sure the requests are met.
"It's not about the money to us," said Captain Heilmann. "It's about giving back and preparing the community. A lot of good things come out of this, we build relationships with the community, and they get to see that we're real people, too. Not just the cops they see on TV."
One of many lessons learned by those businesses that have taken the active shooter training class.