Jerry Davich: Go ask ALICE about school readiness plan
JERRY DAVICH June 18, 2013 4:56PM
Alert: Focuses on simple, clear communication and code words like “Code Red” or “Secure in place”
Lockdown: Can be a valid response but should be used as a semi-secure starting point from which to make survival decisions.
Inform: Is a continuation of “Alert” and uses any means necessary to pass on real-time information.
Counter: Is the application of skills to distract, confuse and gain control through the use of simple proactive techniques.
Evacuate: Is always the preferable response. Our human instinct in the face of danger is to remove ourselves.
Updated: July 20, 2013 6:32AM
Last Friday, on the six-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shootings, I attended a cutting-edge training seminar for a new school lockdown program.
The national program is called ALICE – Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate – designed in response to traditional, yet woefully outdated lockdown techniques, some with headline-grabbing fatal flaws.
Created by law enforcement officers, the “common sense but not common knowledge” program can be easily implemented and effective for the average person under severe stress situations, including school teachers.
“This is an excellent program, and the skills learned are invaluable for staying mentally prepared in case of an active shooter situation,” said Guy Skrobul, assistant principal of Kankakee Valley High School in Wheatfield.
“ALICE training is very important as it gives teachers and students multiple options. These concepts pertain not only to school, but also real-life. They can be applied by anyone, whether in the mall, at the grocery store, or even at church.”
Last summer I wrote a column focusing on a “Run, Hide, Fight” video that addressed responding to an active shooter situation.
“What would you do if caught in a mass-shooting situation?” I asked readers. “Would you run? Hide? Pray? Fight back? Play dead? Become a hero by risking your life for a loved one or strangers?
“Maybe it’s time the rest of us examine our options beforehand with an exit plan, which at least one American city is now officially recommending. The city of Houston has created a powerful and sobering public service announcement to instruct its citizens about having such an exit plan. The nearly six-minute video is called, ‘Run. Hide. Fight. Surviving an Active Shooter Event.’”
Around the time that column ran, Skrobul and his school’s criminal justice instructor, Jeff Moolenaar, were being trained and certified in the ALICE concepts of enhanced lockdown. Earlier, they discovered that Carmel schools had already implemented this program, which trains with live scenario drills.
“We researched the program and brought it back to our school corporation and the county sheriff to implement the program at the district’s five schools,” Moolenaar told me Friday during a break in the two-day training program at DeMotte Calvary Assembly of God Church. “We later got their blessings.”
Skrobul added, “We then proceeded to train all staff in our school district, as well as all students in grades 6 through 12. It has been very well received and a positive for Kankakee Valley High School.”
As far as I know, Kankakee Valley is the first Northwest Indiana school district to use the ALICE program. So it is our local ground zero for a national movement to be better prepared for active shooter or intruder scenarios.
Friday’s training seminar, hosted by certified ALICE instructors, attracted roughly 15 participants, from Will County, Ill., to North Carolina, who paid $395 each to attend. But it attracted no school officials from region schools, which surprised me.
“We tried to get the word out to other schools,” Skrobul said. “Once they complete the training, they too will be able to implement the ALICE procedures in their respective schools or workplaces.”
‘Old system doesn’t work’
Jasper County Coroner Andrew Boersma also attended the seminar, noting how impressed he is with the ALICE model and its point-by-point instructions.
“It’s not the same old hum-drum drill,” Boersma said. “As the county coroner, we all know what that means. If there’s an issue and I have to go to the scene, it’s not the best outcome. We train for everything else. We need to train for this, too.”
Porter County Police Sgt. Larry LaFlower, the school resource officer for Wheeler schools, said school officials in the state have been hesitant of changing the traditional lockdown procedure. Namely, locking doors, turning off lights, and remaining quiet until law enforcement arrives.
“This program at least gives schools a new option to consider,” LaFlower said.
Boersma noted this traditional lockdown model was the protocol at the Virginia Tech mass shooting and it didn’t work to protect students and staff.
“After seeing the statistics that our old system just doesn’t work, I feel we have to look into this ALICE program and implement it,” Boersma said.
The flier for the event states: “Help save lives by providing training that will bridge the gap between the time a violent event begins and law enforcement arrives.”
The program’s website states: “Traditional lockdown, which promotes securing in place and not moving, is not always the best response to an armed intruder. In many instances, it does little more than create easy targets. Common sense tells us that it is easier to hit a sitting duck than a moving target, and research and situational analysis prove this to be true. ALICE teaches techniques for enhancing lockdown, as well as other strategies for improving survivability.”
The ALICE program began in 2000 when Lisa Crane, a school principal, was faced with the constraints of an inadequate traditional lockdown protocol, mirroring the dilemma encountered by educators across the nation. Her husband, Greg Crane, a police officer and SWAT member, created ALICE with law enforcement input.
According to company data, 28 states have ALICE instructors, and 18 states have implemented the program with 1,500 instructors nationwide. In all, more than 800,000 students from kindergarten to high school have been trained in ALICE.
“Isn’t this what police are for?” asks the FAQ page of the company website. “Obviously the police cannot be at all places all of the time. Hundreds of rounds can be expended in just mere minutes. There will a period of time when the building occupants will be responsible for their own safety.”
Skrobul said, “It has been a great addition to safety planning for our school district.”
For more information, demonstrations, and statistics, visit www.alicetraining.com or www.responseoptions.com, or contact Guy Skrobul at 956-3143, extension 2011, or via email at email@example.com.