Valley teachers receive tactical and firearms training - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Valley teachers receive tactical and firearms training

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Administrators, faculty, and teachers from Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana counties are among those who have received special training to carry firearms in schools and tactical training in case of a tragedy. 

The FASTER Saves Lives program, which operates mainly out of training facilities in Hamilton County and Akron, has trained school staff in more than 75 of Ohio's 88 counties. 

The program provides teachers, as well as administrators and other faculty members, with knowledge of tactical methods to handle a school shooter. 

FASTER, which stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response, focuses on stopping an attack or intruder, and then rendering aid to anyone who may have been injured. 

In a three level approach, teachers receive training on skills like handling a firearm during a school shooting, making tactical decisions such as whether to barricade students or move them, decision making skills in a crisis, take-down maneuvers, and more. They're also trained on emergency medical treatment, like tourniquets, compression kits, and other field-tested medical knowledge. 

What started as a  three day course in the spring of 2013 as a response to the Sandy Hook shooting, has transformed into a much larger training scenario. 

Joe Eaton, a regional director for the FASTER program, said that in 2013, schools would send one or two staff members. Primarily they would choose school resource officers, or teachers and staff with military training.

However, Eaton says that over the past few years, schools have been making the decision to send more and more staff members to receive the training- one even sending dozens of teachers. 

Eaton said the program does not license teachers and school staff to carry weapons. In fact, he said that in order to go through the program they require participants to already have their concealed handgun permit. 

He told 21 News that making sure staff have some prior training helps to make sure there is basic knowledge of handgun safety and the ability to shoot. 

However, FASTER does have a one day primer course that will go over some of the basics with shooters who are less comfortable around weapons. In that primer course, trainers go over things like handling a weapon while injured or with your non-dominant hand and reloading during a crisis. 

Recently, the number of those who sign-up for the course and already have their handgun permit has dropped to about 40%, with the others choosing to either pursue their permit before the training courses begin, or partake only in the medical training. 

Eaton said that several years ago school crisis training was mainly for school resource officers, but those teaching the course quickly realized that they were training the wrong people. He went on to say that teachers and school staff are one of the most dedicated groups, and in general will do just about anything to save not only their own children, but other people's kids as well. 

One of the key tenets of the FASTER program is the medical training. Eaton said that there is no other type of emergency in which everyone is 100 percent reliant on outside forces except medical problems. 

The FASTER Program is run by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation as a non-profit organization. 

Eaton stressed that all of the staff members and trainers for FASTER are volunteers, and that they spend nearly a quarter of a million dollars every year on training school district's staff, and they rely on donations to make that possible. 

In previous years FASTER has covered all costs for the teachers and staff to get trained, even covering hotel expenses, as well as sending each person who takes the course back to their school with a field medical kit in case of an emergency. 

However, because demand for the classes has risen so high, FASTER is now only able to cover expenses for some staff members from each school. 

Eaton also said that many schools have begun partnering with their local sheriff's department to encompass law enforcement reaction into their training, which means that FASTER volunteers and trainers have begun traveling to more and more schools across the state. 

And surprisingly, it's not something that the communities have been against. Eaton said that out of all of the school districts that have implemented the FASTER program, none of them have ever had to rescind it. He said that the most push back he has ever seen was one school district who had about 100 people sign a petition denouncing the training. Eaton went on to say that overall, there has never been public outcry. 

However, the decision about whether to publicize their choice to undergo the training rest with each school district. When asked which schools in the Mahoning Valley had chosen to have their staff trained, Eaton said that the choice on whether to tell the community lies with the schools. 

Eaton said that the program, and others like it, have gained in popularity because schools recognize that the threat is real. More schools are implementing programs to teach staff how to identify problem students and monitor social media for credible threats, as well as welcoming tip-lines where community members can voice concerns about threats or things that may seem off. 

"They can no longer look at not doing anything as an option," said Eaton. "They have to do something." 

Something that even schools outside of Ohio, including ones as far away as New York, Louisiana, and Oklahoma have recognized, and called on the volunteers of the FASTER Saves Lives program to help address. 

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