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In 2012, I found myself cast into a situation that each of us has seen on a television series but likely no one reading this has ever experienced. I, along with several of my associates, was held hostage at gunpoint in my office by an individual that let his temper get the best of him.

His rage prevented him from seeing the inescapable outcome of his actions. In the first half hour, our captor fired a warning shot over my head as an act of dominance.

Several of my co-workers escaped in the early minutes of the event, but I was not so fortunate. Two of us were held for hours, which felt like an eternity.

At first, when law enforcement arrived, I felt relieved. Quickly that sense of relief changed to one of realization now there were a number of guns pointed in my direction.

I realized that those on the outside could not have any idea what was going on inside. Would they have the training, the presence of mind, the skills required to bring this event to a safe conclusion, or would I become caught in the crossfire? Would they mistake me as the perpetrator? Would I be used as a human shield in an escape attempt?

When the police eventually entered the office, a gun battle ensued. We were forced into another office while gunfire was being exchanged. It seemed like bullets were flying everywhere, and frankly my biggest fear at that point was of being shot in this exchange by the police officers who were there to help us. After persistent negotiations led by the police negotiator assigned and words of compassion from me, our captor released all of his hostages. Yet it wasn’t until the perpetrator took his own life that the situation finally came to a close.

I doubt that an experience like this will ever happen to me again.

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But think about this: Those officers likely had never experienced a hot situation like this before either. How do we prepare these public servants in advance to handle a situation that they may only see once in a lifetime — an experience that does not offer second chances?

The answer is SIMULATOR training. Developing critical thinking under stress takes constant practice and often emerges alongside traits such as logic, empathy, honesty and proactivity. The Multi Agency Academic Cooperative (MAAC) Emergency Services Training Campus in Valparaiso is offering them the opportunity to challenge and to test their critical thinking skills.

The implementation of virtual reality training will put officers into life-like, high-stress conditions designed to help them develop the reflexes needed to handle situations when lives are on the line. The new tactical building will provide two floors of rooms with 60 movable doors, such that it can be reconfigured over and over to keep the training fresh and challenging.

This traumatic experience has forever changed me.

But now more than ever, I am grateful to our law enforcement personnel. I am alive today because of the actions taken by these courageous men and women.

I applaud the MAAC for their efforts in ensuring that police officers have the training necessary to carry out their sworn duties. Join me in supporting these notable efforts at www.maacfoundation.com/trainingmatters.

Nick Arnold is a real estate professional residing in Valparaiso. The opinions are the writer's.

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