By Office Management Specialist Veronica Marquez, U.S. Embassy San Jose Regional Security Office
Run. Hide. Fight. These three words are drilled into anyone learning how to respond to an active threat situation.
From July 25-29, 2022, a team of agents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) traveled to Costa Rica to train first responders, law enforcement officials, teachers, and school staff on how to respond quickly and effectively to an active threat scenario. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agents in the Regional Security Office (RSO) at the U.S. Embassy in San Jose organized the training, which was held at Costa Rica’s National Police Academy, a longtime partner of the RSO team, and at five schools that host U.S. government children.
Hundreds of participants signed up for USDA’s Law Enforcement Response to Active Threat training – more than 50 first responders from Costa Rican law enforcement agencies and over 300 teachers and administrators, including those who instruct the children of personnel working at the embassy. To make sure that the participants received appropriate instruction based on their job function, the USDA trainers and RSO team split the classes. First responders received two sessions over a period of two days. At the same time, USDA instructors provided a separate active threat response session to teachers and administrators.
According to Regional Security Officer Justin Smith, the USDA’s training equips participants with the knowledge and skills required to successfully react to an active threat event.
“Active threat situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly,” said Smith. “This course trained first responders from multiple agencies on how to form ad hoc teams and work together to intervene at a moment’s notice to stop an active threat incident.”
According to the UDSA instructors, the “Run, Hide, Fight” principles prepare and empower administrators, teachers and students to react both mentally and physically if they are faced with an active threat scenario. The USDA instructors are well-equipped to provide the training, as they are responsible for active threat response training at more than 4,500 USDA locations.
Although Costa Rica is known as a relatively safe country, it is now the largest transshipment point of narcotics between the United States and Europe. Additionally, gun violence and threats against schools are on the rise, with more than 70 threats of violence against schools in Costa Rica this year.
Prior to the training, none of the schools or Costa Rican law enforcement agencies had a plan for dealing with an active threat situation.
A key function of DSS is to partner and train with host nation law enforcement entities, who assist with responding to threats against U.S. missions and personnel. However, the organization’s core duty is to protect people, facilities, and information at more than 270 State Department missions around the globe. and that includes the children of U.S. diplomats at missions overseas.
“The entire U.S. mission in Costa Rica is grateful for the USDA team’s willingness to help our schools and the host nation,” said Smith. “This cooperative effort was diplomacy at its finest and helped strengthen key relationships. Most importantly, this training increased participants’ ability to respond to a potential crisis, which will help keep our children and teachers safer.”