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Georgia Tech officers go through campus shooting simulation

ATLANTA - The muted sound of gunfire rang out from a window in the boarded up brick dorm.

A pack of Georgia Tech police officers wearing masks ran toward the building's open doorway as Georgia State Patrol officers yelled commands.

'The shooter's down the hall, first door on the right, killing people! Go!'

But the gunman wasn't an angry student - he's head of campus security. And his gun only shot plastic bullets full of fluorescent yellow paint.

The campus shooting simulation was the final exercise in three days of training for Georgia Tech's 70 police officers. The university began designing such exercises for its police force months before gunman Seung-Hui Cho went on an April 16 shooting spree at Virginia Tech, killing 32 people and then himself, said Andy Altizer, director of emergency preparedness for Georgia Tech.

But the Virginia Tech shooting was a signal that putting officers through the simulation could not be delayed, he said.

'We did not design it because of Virginia Tech, but we bumped it up to make sure we had it before the students moved in this fall,' Altizer said.

The simulation - called 'active shooter training' - is part of a campus-wide overhaul of security measures that were approved about 18 months ago. The new measures include an emergency alert system that sends text messages to students' cell phones and sirens placed around campus.

Campus police also are put through simulations each semester to train for a variety of emergencies: chemical spills, tornadoes, fires and shooters.

Thursday's simulation involved two 'shooters' who used bright blue guns to launch paint-filled bullets in an empty dormitory on campus. University officers, with the help of the Georgia State Patrol's special weapons and tactics division, had to find the shooters and either corner them into an empty room or shoot them.

They also had to deal with one of the shooters taking a student hostage and with clearing other students out of the building safely.

A decade ago, campus police simply gave assistance to other law enforcement during campus emergencies, but school shootings in the last 10 years have changed that role, Altizer said.

'They've got to go in and take care of business,' he said. 'You can't prepare for it all, but you've got to prioritize.'