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Bay Pines VA Police Strengthen Readiness Through Active Threat Training

A man sits at his computer and facilitates a virtual active threat training session.
Bay Pines VA Police Service Training Coordinator Lt. Dennis Shelters, educates staff about the processes they should follow when faced with an active threat during a virtual training session on Aug. 16, 2023.

To strengthen our readiness, Bay Pines VA Healthcare System’s Police Service is hosting virtual active threat training sessions for all employees. The hour-long sessions provide staff with the tools they need to appropriately respond to an active threat.

“Most people immediately associate an active threat with a gun, but that’s not always the case,” said Bay Pines VA’s Police Service Training Coordinator Lt. Dennis Shelters. “The VA expands on that definition to ensure staff are aware that an active threat can also involve a knife, an improvised explosive device, or any other weapon that’s used for the purpose of causing harm on a wide scale.”

Staff who attend the training session are educated about the processes they should follow when faced with an active threat.

Shelters continued, “There are three things that a staff member can do in the event of an active threat emergency; evacuate, evade, or engage. Regardless of which tactic they choose, it’s imperative for the person to fully commit to that route.”

According to Shelters, the Evacuate, Evade, or Engage module should be adhered to in that order whenever possible.

“During training, staff are told that if they have a secure, clear path to safety, then they should evacuate; however, if they're not sure, then the best option may be to evade, otherwise known as sheltering in place,” Shelters shared. “Engaging should always be considered a last resort; if someone chooses to engage it should only be if their life is in immediate danger.”

Because the circumstances surrounding an active threat will vary each time, Bay Pines VA Police Service provides detailed guidelines to staff that will help them assess the circumstances of their incident and determine the ideal recourse. Additionally, staff are provided with guidance for how they should interact with law enforcement once they arrive on seen.

“When Police Service responds to the incident, we have one mission and that is to eliminate the threat,” Shelters said. “It’s difficult to communicate to people that, when we’re running toward the crisis, we’re not able to render aid to the injured in that moment.”

Instead of attempting to stop police, Shelters recommends that staff share knowledge about the threat with first responders as they pass by.

Shelters continued, “What really helps is if people tell us information about appearance, gender, number of assailants; really any details that can help us locate and neutralize the threat.”

In the event of a crisis, this training may prove to be an invaluable resource in helping mitigate injury and loss of life and Bay Pines VA’s Police Service intends to offer additional sessions in the future. Staff who are interested in receiving active threat training can reach out to our Police Service by emailing or calling 727-398-6661, ext. 17565.

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