SAUK RAPIDS -- In an era of frequent and devastating mass violence, the Sauk Rapids Police Department is making sure they're ready to handle anything.

The department will host two separate Active Threat training exercises at Sauk Rapids Middle School during the month of August.

Sauk Rapids Police Chief Perry Beise says the training focuses on a hypothetical school attack. Officers set up a command post, find and eliminate the threat, and rescue victims - just as they would during an actual emergency.

Each training evening will include eight or nine Sauk Rapids police officers along with officers from Sartell, Stearns and Benton Counties, members of the Sauk Rapids Fire Department and other assorted local law enforcement personnel. Beise says, if a real emergency situation occurs in a large public space, such as the 2016 knife attack at Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, dozens of agencies with hundreds of officers are dispatched to assist.

Everybody comes when there's an incident like this, because we know it takes many hands to assist the victims and just control that crime scene, because that crime scene is very large. Then we go back and try to figure out what happened and why it happened.

The department hosted Active Threat training for the first time last year at Sauk Rapids High School. Beise says police departments have updated their strategies for responding to active threats in schools over the years, and routine training is critical.

We used to wait for another officer before entering the school. Now, the first officer arrives and starts moving toward where the threat is. We don't wait anymore for someone to enter with us for support. We just go to the threat.

The training exercises will take place on Wednesdays, August 7 and 14, from 5-10 p.m. at Sauk Rapids Middle School, and Beise reminds residents - these are only drills.

Anyone with questions is encouraged to contact the Sauk Rapids Police Department.