—by Todd Thorson

The Roland-Story school staff recently took part in A.L.I.C.E. training on August 12, a week prior to the start of school. A.L.I.C.E., which stands for "alert, lock down, inform, counter and evacuate", is a course and approach devoted to increasing awareness about possible violent situations that can and have occurred at public schools. It is geared toward providing steps to survive a possible "shooter" or violent intruder scenario on school grounds.

"It is designed to give students and staff the ability to make some determinations in crisis situations," said Superintendent Mike Billings. "Obviously there cannot be any guarantees that this training will save everyone’s life, but their research would indicate that the number of deaths in these horrible happenings are decreased."

The A.L.I.C.E. training institute website (www.alicetraining.com) states that most intruder situations last between five and seven minutes. Typically, first responders take longer than that to enter a compromised building. Through research, it has been shown that civilians have stopped active shooter events twice as many times as police intervention. And the reason for this is because the civilians are already present on-site. The A.L.I.C.E. program equips school districts and public institutions to better prepare for life and death encounters. One cannot rely on law enforcement officials alone. By learning how to protect yourself and react properly, you can save your own life.

The five components of A.L.I.C.E. are:

Alert - which focuses on simple and clean communication, using code words such as "Code Red" or "Secure in Place", which are used in schools and work places across the country to notify occupants of danger. Code words are usually created to prevent panic, but the reality is that when an incident breaks out and people realize it is not a drill, they will be alarmed and fearful. In this state, direct and clear communication is the best protocol.

Lock down - can be a valid response, but should be used as a semi-secure starting point from which to make survival decisions. The training explains scenarios where lock down is the preferable option and dispels myths about traditional lock down procedures. It also presents 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 lock down to prepare to use other strategies (i.e. counter and evacuate) that might come into play should a "shooter" gain entrance to the building.

Inform - is a continuation of "alert" and uses any means necessary to pass on real-time information. Video surveillance, 911 calls and PA announcements are just a few of the channels that may be used. The information should be clear and direct, and also focus on communicating the whereabouts of the intruder.

Counter - is the application of skills to distract, confuse and gain control through the use of simple proactive techniques, such as actions to creating noise, movement, distance and distractions with the intent to reduce the shooter’s ability to shoot accurately.

Evacuate - is always the preferable response. Human instinct in the face of danger causes us to remove ourselves from that threat. The A.L.I.C.E. training provided techniques for safe and more strategic evacuations.

Roland-Story’s administrative team went through the A.L.I.C.E. training last spring. The teaching staff used their first morning of in-service on August 12 to take in the course. Superintendent Billings also said that the student body will be given the presentation at some point in the near future, but he is not sure what type of training it will be or when it will occur.

"For now, we have trained the staff, and our administrative team, in conjunction with the Story County Sheriff’s Office," said Billings, "and we will decide how we will adopt what we have learned to fit Roland-Story."

The A.L.I.C.E. Training Institute is headquartered in Medina, Ohio, and provides proactive risk management to schools, universities, businesses, hospitals and places of worship. Since its inception, A.L.I.C.E. has been adopted by more than 900 organizations, representing more than one million people across the United States. It offers school districts options that mitigate liability, assume less risk and, most importantly, equip students and faculty with life-saving skills.

The A.L.I.C.E. program was created by Greg and Lisa Crane, a Dallas/Fort Worth law enforcement officer and elementary school principal, following the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. Their two worlds were brought together and the A.L.I.C.E. program formed one night around the dinner table in 2001 when Greg asked Lisa what she and her students would do while the police are en route to the school following a "shooter" situation. Lisa’s school protocol was the standard at the time - put out a "Code Red", gather the students in the classroom, lock the door, turn off the lights, sit in a corner and wait for the police. Greg, however, did not like his wife’s plan, so he set out to make a better plan. That plan would later evolve into the A.L.I.C.E. program.

With Columbine and Sandy Hook Elementary a tragic reminder of what can happen at our local schools, the A.L.I.C.E. training program will better equip staff, students and personel to better handle violent intruders and potential "shooter" situations should they occur. It is our children, after all, who are most vulnerable, and most importantly, innocently placed in the daily care of our teachers and administrators. Teaching them, along with their teachers, will given them the skills necessary to survive a potentially tragic situation.

"This program certainly gave all of our staff members something to think about," commented Billings, "as we move forward in providing a safe environment for our students and staff."