REEDSVILLE — Teachers, staff and administrators at Eastern Local Schools spent a portion of their planned waiver day on Monday learning something that they hope to never need to use, but something that could save the lives of themselves and their students should it ever be needed.
While there is always the thought of “it could never happen here,” the threat of an active shooter in a school setting is a possibility that schools must be prepared to face. After Monday’s training, staff at Eastern is better prepared to face that possible situation.
Middle School Principal, and certified ALICE Training Institute instructor, Bill Francis led staff and fellow administrators in the classroom and live scenario portion of the ALICE Training.
ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, which is exactly what the training teaches the staff to do.
According to the ALICE Training Institute website, the five steps will assist those in an active shooter situation. The website explains Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate as follows:
Alert — Alert is your first notification of danger. Alert is when you first become aware of a threat. The sooner you understand that you’re in danger, the sooner you can save yourself. A speedy response is critical. Seconds count. Alert is overcoming denial, recognizing the signs of danger and receiving notifications about the danger from others. Alerts should be accepted, taken seriously, and should help you make survival decisions based on your circumstances.
Lockdown — Barricade the room. Prepare to evacuate or counter if needed. If evacuation is not a safe option, barricade entry points into your room in an effort to create a semi-secure starting point. The training explains scenarios where lockdown may be the preferable option and dispels myths about passive, traditional ‘lockdown only’ procedures that create readily identifiable targets and makes a shooter’s mission easier. ALICE trainers instruct on practical techniques for how to better barricade a room, what to do with mobile and electronic devices, how and when to communicate with police, and how to use your time in lockdown to prepare to use other strategies (i.e. counter or evacuate) that might come into play should the active shooter gain entry.
Inform — Communicate the violent intruder’s location and direction in real time. The purpose of inform is to continue to communicate information in as real time as possible, if it is safe to do so. Armed intruder situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly, which means that ongoing, real time information is key to making effective survival decisions. Information should always be clear, direct and in plain language, not using codes. If the shooter is known to be in an isolated section of a building, occupants in other wards can safely evacuate while those in direct danger can perform enhanced lockdown and prepare to counter. Video surveillance, 911 calls and PA announcements are just a few of the channels that may be used by employees, safety officers, and other personnel to inform others. An emergency response plan should have clear methods outlined for informing school employees, hospital workers, or any other employees of the location of a violent intruder.
Counter — Create noise, movement, distance and distraction with the intent of reducing the shooter’s ability to shoot accurately. Counter is not fighting. ALICE Training does not believe that actively confronting a violent intruder is the best method for ensuring the safety of those involved. Counter is a strategy of last resort. Counter focuses on actions that create noise, movement, distance and distraction with the intent of reducing the shooter’s ability to shoot accurately. Creating a dynamic environment decreases the shooter’s chance of hitting a target and can provide the precious seconds needed in order to evacuate.
Evacuate — When safe to do so, remove yourself from the danger zone. ATI provides techniques for safer and more strategic evacuations. Evacuating to a safe area takes people out of harm’s way and hopefully prevents civilians from having to come into any contact with the shooter. Did you know that you should break a window from the top corner as opposed to the center? Many useful techniques that civilians do not know exist and can save your life. ALICE trainers teach strategies for evacuating through windows, from higher floors and under extreme duress.
After hearing a presentation on the training, staff was given the option to participate in the “live scenarios” with air-soft gun fire or in the walk through scenarios.
As part of the live scenarios, staff members were first told to take part in what is considered the traditional lockdown of locking the door and hiding under desks. The shooter then entered the classroom, without resistance, finding that the staff members would have been easy targets, with many able to be hit in a small amount of time.
In the second scenario, staff members were asked to “lockdown” using what they had learned through the ALICE Training. During this version of the lockdown, staff members were able to place items in front of doorways to block the shooter from having a clear shot on anyone inside the room. Other rooms were able to keep the door from being opened with the strength of a teacher who could hold it shut as the gunman pulled on the door. No one in any of the three classrooms was able to be hit by the air-soft fire during this scenario.
Staff members were then given a scenario in which the secretary announced that there was a gunman in a different part of the building, forcing the staff to decide whether to evacuate or lockdown given the location. All three classrooms were able to safely evacuate before the gunman could get to the area. In this case, evacuation was to safe zone that had been set up, but in the case of an actual active shooter situation, those who may have elected to lockdown in their classrooms could also evacuate through the windows in the rooms if needed to escape. Francis advised the staff members that when evacuating to remember not to run in a straight line, as that increases the chances of being hit by gun fire. Those running in a zig-zag pattern are harder to hit.
With the option to counter the possible gunman, staff members were given stress balls to throw at the gunman which were to represent actual classroom items which they would throw in the case of a real situation. Francis advised the staff that in the case of an actual shooter situation items such as books, staplers, scissors or other items could be thrown, but not to directly attempt to fight with gunman. This was also the case during a scenario staged in the library. In this case, stress balls had been placed on the shelves and tables to symbolize the books. As the gunman moved from one area into another those who he had his back to were able to evacuate, while also countering to disrupt the shooter.
During a debriefing session after the live scenarios, multiple teachers explained that they felt empowered should they ever be put in an active shooter situation.
Other takeaways from the training was how fast the situation can unfold, leaving seconds to decide which course of action to take. Francis noted that it is important to pick a course of action and commit to it. In one of the scenarios, a classroom had begun to lockdown, and he to take down a barricade in order to evacuate, wasting what could be valuable seconds.
As for presenting the ALICE Training concepts to the students, Francis said there are videos that go along with the program that are age specific. Additionally, evacuation and lockdown drills are something that can be incorporated like fire drills.
In addition to the training on Monday, staff members have taken part in an online training and have several additional resources and training materials available through that portal.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.