Wooldrige Hall utilized for training UTPD First Responders

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Two UTPD officers ascend a staircase in Wooldridge Hall Monday afternoon, attempting to find and secure a mock shooter. Local law enforcement agencies often use buildings scheduled for demolition to train police officers in active shooter response scenarios.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

First Responders-in-training pelted each other and the lead-based paint walls at Wooldridge Hall with colored simulation bullets during a UT Police Department training session that began Monday.

Assistant Chief of Police Terry McMahan said the trainees will go through active-shooter training, the kind employed when a UT student fired an assault rifle on campus before taking his own life on Sept. 28, 2010.

“It’s a multi-agency training, so Travis County [Sheriffs], DPS [Department of Public Safety], APD [Austin Police Department] and UTPD are all taking part in this,” McMahan said. “If we had an active shooter, we’d have multiple teams to respond seamlessly like they did on the 9/28 incident.”

Once the center for study abroad and international student’s offices, Wooldridge Hall will be demolished later in the year.

UTPD holds this sort of “force-on-force training” whenever a University building becomes obsolete, McMahan said.

“We did this in the ROTC building before it got torn down,” he said. “It gives you a realistic way to learn how to do these things in an actual University building.”

Rhonda Weldon, director of University Operations-Communications, said UT routinely holds this kind of training to better prepare for emergency situations.

UTPD posted a warning last Thursday on their Facebook page to “expect lots of commotion” near Wooldridge Hall this week as the First Responders train.

The department will hold training from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until Wednesday, in the hall located on 24th Street between Nueces and Seton streets in West Campus.

Don Verett, captain of UTPD, said participants will endure a variety of training situations.

Verett warned the almost 200 trainees about the tunnel vision and auditory exclusion they can expect from adrenaline rushes during the tests. The trainees use a modified gun that shoots soap bullets combined with dye to provide negative reinforcement when hit, he said.

“Some of these scenarios require the rescuing of a hostage, some just need a bad guy neutralized,” Verett said. “Basically, a team of good guys goes in and fights a team of bad guys.”