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Springfield staff train in A.L.i.C.E. response

2/21/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Participants in the training session used desks and chairs to block the doorway and slow down the armed intruder.
Springfield Local Schools staff huddle in a corner with the door locked and lights turned out after hearing gunshots in the hallway. This was one scenario the staff acted out as part of A.L.i.C.E. training.
Photos: Maria Lindsay
LAKEMORE — Springfield Local School District staff learned how to confront threatening intruders with a more active response thanks to A.L.i.C.E. training that was conducted at Springfield High School Feb. 15.

Springfield Police Sgt. Eric East showed the class how two small people could grab an intruder’s arms and use their weight to take him down.
Springfield Police Sgt. Eric East acted as an armed intruder during an A.L.i.C.E. training session for Springfield Local Schools staff Feb. 15.
A.L.i.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, inform, Counter and Evacuate) is a program developed by RESPONSE OPTIONS, a critical incident response training company specializing in active shooter and violent intruder response strategies that was started by two retired law enforcement officers and a retired educator, according to the A.L.i.C.E. website.

The A.L.i.C.E. program teaches strategies that enhance current lockdown policies used to deal with an “active killer,” according to Springfield Police Department Sgt. Eric East. He and James McKnight, a police and school resource officer — both of whom are certified as A.L.i.C.E. teachers — trained more than 100 district staff members that day.

“This program offers another option to active killer situations other than to stand by and become a target,” said East. “It is designed to make it as difficult as possible for an intruder to complete his task, and aims to save lives and reduce casualties.”

East and McKnight led several three-and-a-half-hour sessions that included classroom instruction and practical exercises that gave staff members an opportunity to put what they learned into practice.

“It is difficult to stop a determined intruder, but by training and preparing responses, you can cut down on the number of casualties,” said East.

In the classroom session, East and McKnight discussed each segment of A.L.i.C.E: getting the word out that there is an active killer in the building by using clear, concise language; using lockdown procedures as a starting point; keeping those in the building informed about the intruder; applying skills to distract and confuse the intruder; and reducing casualties by escaping.

Three practical exercises followed. One asked participants to use current practices, which East called “passive,” upon hearing shots fired in the building. That response requires staff to lock the door, turn out the lights and hide with students quietly in a back corner of the room.

East entered the room as the active killer with a plastic toy gun firing off Nerf bullets, and was able to shoot more than five teachers before he decided to leave for another room. Participants in the room said they “felt helpless” and “like sitting ducks” after that exercise.

In the next two exercises, East asked participants to use the A.L.i.C.E. tactics they learned in the classroom, which stress countering an attacker and leaving the room instead of “cowering in a corner.”

East showed how the occupants can throw books, water bottles and other items found in the classroom at the intruder, how to scatter instead of huddling and how to push desks at the intruder — all of which is designed to disrupt his plans to shoot people — and how to run from the room when the intruder is engaged in dealing with such confrontations.

Only two staff members reported being hit by East’s gun in that exercise, and East said he was “too busy dodging” items being thrown at him to shoot.

McKnight told the class that “doing something is better than doing nothing.” East added that most of the casualties that occurred at the Columbine High School shooting spree in 1999 were found in the library, where students had been hiding.

East and McKnight also provided tactical information on how important it is to keep all outside doors locked instead of propping them open, how to place desks in front of the classroom door to make it difficult for an intruder to enter, and how to use a belt or electrical cord to wrap around a door handle and hold it closed when it can’t be locked.

In addition, East demonstrated how even the smallest people can use their weight to take down an intruder — “a last-ditch effort” — by latching onto each arm of the intruder and dropping to the ground, which also takes the intruder down, who can then be more easily subdued by others.

McKnight told participants that what they learned could also be used at movie theaters, churches, malls and sports facilities or arenas.

High School Principal Cynthia Frola said she welcomed the training for her staff.

“It is certainly an advantage that we need,” she said. “This makes so much more sense than to lock yourself away and wait for responders.”

Participants agreed.

“I am glad we are doing this training,” said high school art teacher Nancy Michel, who has 34 years of teaching experience. “We need to be educated on this.”

High School math teacher Jodi Burgess said the training made her “feel better” about dealing with a dangerous intruder.

Springfield Schools Superintendent William Stauffer said the next step for the district is to provide the A.L.i.C.E. training to students. East and McKnight said training would be modified to address students of various ages, but it was not likely to take place before the next school year.

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