BENTON, Ark. – It’s been three days of active shooter training for Saline County law enforcement as officers and deputies learn what to do when an emergency hits home.

But this year, some new faces are joining the drills: firefighters from Benton focused on helping victims and saving lives.

When the first call to 911 is made, it all boils down to two goals – stop the shooting and save the lives of victims at the scene. That second goal is the focus of paramedics, now working hand in hand with officers during realistic active shooter drills to learn what to do.

For the first time in Benton’s annual active shooter training, the Benton Fire Department has joined the ranks – providing a new service not previously seen: medical aid to victims as soon as possible, on the scene just moments after a nightmare comes to life.

Stuart Duke is a Benton FD instructor tasked with training the paramedics, from assessing the damage to evacuating with their team.

“RTF is a “rescue task force” [involving EMS] and Benton is the pilot program,” Duke explained, on the scene encouraging medics and giving pointers to those caught in a situation. “What we are doing is providing immediate aid to people quicker than we have ever done before.”

The other half of RTF is made up of deputies and officers from surrounding agencies, like Sgt. Justin Kirk with Saline County Sheriff’s Office. These law enforcement agents have the sole goal of clearing rooms and saving EMS so they can save others, a challenge for those used to drawing fire.

“That has been a whole new element to what we do,” Sgt. Kirk said. “It has added some new stresses to how we move in and protect them.”

The importance of prompt medical intervention has been a focus in the wake of multiple mass shootings, some like Uvalde where victims were bleeding out for close to an hour before help arrived.

With the addition of a paramedic team in Benton’s training, Saline County becomes one of the few in Arkansas using a multi-agency training program, working with various departments to run through drills and create county-wide plans of action.