On Monday, about 40 people gathered at the Josephine Tope Community Auditorium in Nevada to learn about the ALICE training that Nevada students will soon be exposed to. The training was demonstrated by Matt Snyder of the Nevada Police Department and three Story County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Once Nevada and Ames schools go through their simulation drills, Story County will be the first county in Iowa to be ALICE-trained in all of its schools.
ALICE, an acronym that stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, is meant to increase survivability in violent intruder situations. After years of telling teachers and students to go into lockdown (teachers and students locking themselves in a room with the lights off and remaining quiet), the Columbine High School shooting of 1999 forced law enforcement and schools to rethink their response to these types of incidents.
At Monday’s presentation, officers said the average national response time for city police can be five to six minutes, while county sheriff’s deputies could be 15 minutes or more, depending on their location.
The officers said Monday that requiring students to go into lockdown is unnatural, because it goes against the natural fight or flight response of the body. Officers played an audio clip of the 911 call from Columbine made by a teacher who had her students in lockdown in the library during that tragedy. It was later determined that all the people in the library could have escaped from the building by the time one of the shooters arrived at their location. In the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, there were only two casualties because people took a proactive approach. Officers shared that intruders are often counting on a passive response by an entire building, which gives them control of the entire building instead of only a small part where the shooter is located.
The ALICE approach stresses that these situations are fluid and the best option for one classroom will not necessarily be the best approach for another. Officers pointed out that most students should be able to escape an intruder entering on the other side of the building by using an alternative exit, or making an exit by breaking a window.
If lockdown is the only option for a room, the officers showed photos of barricades that would make it hard for an intruder to enter, and would give law enforcement more time.
Students will be trained on a variety of ALICE tactics that they can use. Some tactics that can be employed include throwing objects at a shooter’s face, putting distance between an attacker and themselves, moving in a serpentine pattern to make shots more difficult, and for older students, even swarming the intruder. Demonstrations with tennis balls showed how significantly all of these things can affect a shooter.
Also discussed were what students and staff will do once they are out of the building. There will be planned rally points, where parents can eventually be reunited with their children. The officers stressed that parents should NOT come to the school if a violent intruder situation occurs, not only because they will be putting themselves in danger, but also because it will complicate law enforcement’s response.
Faculty and staff at Nevada have already gone through ALICE training, and the school has implemented some safety procedures for how it will do announcements over the intercom. The school has also added surveillance cameras and made outside doors more secure.