Oft times something of great value is born of tragedy. On April 20, 1999 two students, heavily armed with rifles, pistols and assorted explosive devices entered Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado and began to herd, hunt and kill 12 fellow students and one teacher. An additional 27 were wounded or injured while trying to escape.
Over a Christmas Eve meal in the home of Greg and Lisa Crane in 2001 an announcement about a local officer who had been killed in the line of duty came across the TV and the conversation turned towards the dangers confronted by law enforcement officers. Greg was an active duty police officer in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and his wife Lisa was a school principal. Greg had substantial training in dealing with active shooters. He knew that there was a “response time” to get to the scene of an active shooter. So he asked his wife a question . . . “What do you do while you wait for the police to arrive.” Her response was telling – here’s a quote from the ALiCE Training Institute:
“When I find out we have an intruder, I put out a “Code Red” over the PA, the teachers get everyone in a classroom, lock the door, turn off the lights, sit in the corner and wait for the police to arrive.”
And an idea was born that has, over the past 12 years, grown into the ALiCE Training Institute – follow the link to their whole history.
“ALiCE” is an acronym for Alert – Lockdown – inform – Counter – Escape. Today I had the opportunity to attend and observe an ALiCE training for the school that my daughter teaches at. If the schools in your community do no other security training this year . . . I strongly encourage you to talk to your school’s administration and your school board to put ALiCE training at the very top of their list.
The training is divided into two sections – group lecture and scenario based training in the classroom. The group lecture thoroughly covers the individual components that make up the acronym “ALiCE”. The second half – the scenarios – provide the school’s staff the experience of being confronted by an active shooter in the school through the use of Simunitions as well as AirSoft pistols. Once the initial jitters were over – there were instances where the seriousness of these scenarios was experienced by every teacher and administration member. Let’s chat about the training in a bit more detail.
ALiCE . . . Alert . . . Lockdown . . . inform . . . Counter . . . Escape
Most schools today have some very sophisticated camera systems, entry protocols and entry areas where people coming into the school can be fully observed. At the first indication that the day is about to go sideways the school building, local police and first responders are Alerted to the situation. More information is better – where is the threat entering, how is he/she dressed, do they have weapons, can the weapons be identified, is the threat known . . . everything is helpful to the responding police departments and first responders.
This is the beginning of “buying time” for those in the building enabling the police to arrive and directly deal with the threat.
Securing entry to individual classrooms adds to the amount of time bought. This will vary from district to district. Some may choose to have room doors locked at all times. Others may encourage that they only be opened during while the students are moving between classes. Each school will come up with their own plan. It is at this point that ALiCE begins to “change the game” by broadening the mindset of the teacher – and eventually the students. ALiCE teaches ways and methods that the class can become proactive in their defense against the active shooter. Rather than becoming fodder for the shooter by huddling in a corner and hoping help arrives – the discussion revolved around options . . . securing the door, methods of exit, how to counter an active shooter. It began to show that there were options available other than being part of the body count.
As the shooter moves through out a facility, it’s important that their actions/whereabouts be reported over any/all communications systems available – the PA, to law enforcement en-route, to the first responders – again, more communications is better. This information can also include what the shooter is wearing, the direction they are headed in, weapons – anything that is observed, whether the person observing the shooter believes it is important or not. More information is better . . .
Should an active shooter be encountered, there are ways students and staff can Counter them. Throwing everything from books to chairs can distract the shooter allowing more to escape. Weapons chosen – or prepositioned – in a room can also help. Everything from fire extinguishers to ball bats could be used to buy time and defeat an active shooter. This is one more element in changing the mindset of the students and staff from victim to defender – to give them tools to counter an active shooter’s attack.
Evacuation is obviously the preferred option. Should the opportunity present itself to escape – DO IT! All the preceding elements – the initial Alert, the initial Lockdown, the continuing information and Countering an active shooter you encounter INCREASES you chances of Escape. Does this guarantee that all will survive, that all will remain unhurt? Obviously not . . . yet it provides the opportunity to REDUCE casualties. And there is a lot of value in that.
Honestly, I’m going to leave these vague. Their purpose was to provide the teachers the “feeling” of confronting an armed shooter – some even experience the welt of being hit by an AirSoft round. Much better than a shotgun round or round from a rifle or handgun, but enough to take the teacher from just a “training” to the experience of being shot. The AAR afterwards clearly revealed that each experienced an instant where the scenario was “real” and how important it was that they reassess their current thoughts about defending against an active shooter.
By the end of the multiple scenarios they were given a broad range of tools and ideas that will act as a beginning point to prepare for a day everyone prays never comes . . . an invasion by an active shooter.
This was a topic touched on in a couple of discussion periods. For us, in the state of Iowa, citizens with a carry permit CANNOT enter school property armed. This is a right reserved for law enforcement or resource officers with a LEO endorsement. So the whole idea of armed staff is simply off the table. That said, there are many schools throughout the country that have either armed resource officers, staff and do allow citizens with valid carry permits to carry in and on school property. Check your own states rules and regulations.
A morning well spent! Again . . . I would consider ALiCE training a MUST for every school system in the country. Talk to your schools, your school board – make sure they have put an ALiCE training on their calendar in the very near future.
It could easily save your child’s life.