There is a science to getting somebody, perhaps armed and dangerous, to surrender. For almost 10 years, police departments in the region have been learning and refining the techniques such as those used in Montgomery County during a tense 12-hour standoff that ended early yesterday.

Emergency Response Teams, made up of heavily armed tactical squads, negotiators, detectives and support personnel, have been formed in police departments here since the late 1970s, after New York City introduced the first such unit in 1974, according to police instructors and officers who have been trained for such activity.

"Our optimum goal is to see that no one gets hurt," said Sgt. William Hogwood, coordinator of the negotiating team in Prince George's County and a trainer of other negotiators in the area. "But we place a lot of focus on the suspect. If he is willing to listen and willing to look for a safe, dignified way out, we'll give it to him.

"Before these techniques started being used, police departments took a more violent approach," Hogwood said. "Somebody might try to talk to the suspect but it really depended on what district it happened in or who was in charge . . . . And the discipline of the men to withhold fire was much less. Horror stories now are few and far between."

Police from around the metropolitan area participate in workshops and training sessions to exchange information about so-called barricade situations or any situation requiring emergency response. Each jurisdiction has slightly different criteria for alerting their units. Yet authorities around the Capital Beltway agree that whenever a life-threatening situation emerges that could be resolved through negotiation, an emergency team is activated.

In the Monday night barricade case that ended in the suicide of murder suspect Howard Smith of Silver Spring, police quickly broadcast a description of the man and the car he was driving. As that description was being heard across unit radios, a computer check of state records tracked the car to an address on Venice Drive in Silver Spring.

A police officer from the Silver Spring unit drove by the house about an hour after the shooting, and she spotted the suspect entering the house while hiding something under his coat.

The officer made the decision then not to enter the house. Chief Bernard D. Crooke Jr. explained her decision this way: "If she had confronted him, she might have been killed. She waited for a backup and by that time the emergency team was notified . . . . We don't try to do anything stupid or 'heroic' in these kinds of situations. The man had already shot someone. It's foolhardy to risk life or limb for false heroics."

The communication division of the department is then alerted. Officers who normally investigate car thefts or robberies are paged that a situation occurred that requires the emergency response team. And so starts what has become a routine checklist for police.

"We make what could be . . . {confusing} something very orderly," Crooke said. "I think that makes the community around the situation feel very secure."

As police arrive, roads near the suspect are closed off, neighbors are alerted and sent from the area, a police mobile command post is set up with phone, radio and ambulance.

The phone company is notified to help police control communications to and from the site; the gas or electric utility companies also are alerted. Police may want their help as the night grows long.

If the suspect seems too bold or comfortable in his home, the police may want to turn off his lights or his heat to set him off balance.

In Monday's standoff, after the neighborhood was secured, the police opened contact with Smith, as four officers monitored the phone conversation between the suspect and a trained officer -- a veteran with eight years of experience on the Emergency Response Team and a master's degree in counseling.

Sgt. Joseph Hock was on the phone with Smith for nearly 12 hours yesterday. He said his approach was one of reassurance: "I believe that you have to make some sort of connection with the person. Some people are ready to talk. Others take hours and hours to get to that point . . . you have to get them to trust you. You don't tell them what to do. You just try to get him to understand you know how he's feeling. Once you get to that point, you're halfway there."

Hock let Smith know he wanted him to come out of the house. Smith said he wouldn't. He would have to be killed first, Smith told police.

"I feel bad. I don't feel responsible but I feel badly that we weren't able to do something to resolve the situation differently," Hock said.