If a terrorist attack were to happen in Central Texas would we be prepared? Local law enforcement says yes. They credit extensive training and better equipment.
Officers have a lot more on their plates. They're going beyond their traditional roles to better prepare themselves for the unexpected.
Training for Central Texas law enforcement has changed since the early 2000's. It has progressed with the threats we face.
"Instead of the old model of setting up a perimeter, waiting for the SWAT team to arrive and they go in...well the new model for policing around the country is, you get there, you go in and you neutralize the threat," says Chief Sean Mannix, Cedar Park Police Department.
Back in 2005, Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix, who was then employed by the Austin Police Department, wrote an article on law enforcement response to terrorist attacks and mass casualty incidents.
It was published in 2007 in the Texas Police Journal.
Mannix found that a great deal of emphasis was placed on prevention and response after a terrorist event, but little placed on intervention and suppression of an incident in-progress. So how do we look in 2015?
"There is more training in active shooter response, there is more and better equipment related to active shooter response and there's a different mindset with officers, as it relates to active shooter response. Primarily that mindset is one of, it can be a dangerous business. Officers understand that they could be injured or killed in the service of others facing the same threat," said Mannix.
Even smaller departments like Rollingwood Police are attending these types of trainings, making sure officers everywhere are on the same page.
"We're learning about different cultures, how they actually pray, how they convene, what's safe, what's not safe. When we're going to active shooter calls, we're actually doing training where we're simulating the shooting actually occuring, how we'll prepare, how we'll enter, doing building clearances and how to approach a situation safely," says Officer Dan Arispe, Rollingwood Police Department.
It's not just your typical training. In the 2005 article, Mannix also talked about the need to cross-train officers when it comes to rescue operations, combat triage of the injured and evacuation of the innocent.
"Now every officer in the field, with this department and most departments in the region, have a tourniquet on their belt. They're trained if they are one of the casualties, you know how to help themselves and how to help others. So every officer is equipped to start doing emergency first-aid. They've also got an indivual first-aid kit that has things like blood clotting gauze and those type of things to immediately stop the bleeding," says Mannix.
Coupling training with equipment has been essential. There are now three tactical rescue vehicles in the Central Texas region, one of them in Cedar Park.
They can be used as a shield for officers in an active shooter situation, carry out the wounded, or gain entry into barricaded buildings.
"I think that the Austin-area itself is well equipped to handle whatever threats come our way," says Mannix.
Whether it's now or later.
The Central Texas Regional SWAT Team was recently formed, involving resources from Cedar Park, Leander and Georgetown.
The team is specially trained in handling high-risk operations.