Sheriff’s office urges proactive system for Fairfield schools
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Kent Lox talked with the Fairfield school board May 19 about an aggressive, proactive response to violence, the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate system — known as A.L.I.C.E.
“We’re asking the board’s permission to implement the A.L.I.C.E. system in the school district,” said Lox.
Marci Dunlap, director of curriculum and part of the administration team in the district, said she would like the vertical teams to look at the system and training. The district’s vertical teams are composed of district staff, teachers, parents and community business people.
Board president Jennifer Anderson said she appreciated hearing about the training and the options it offers.
“[Ask] the new superintendent,” said Superintendent Art Sathoff, who leaves the Fairfield school district at the end of June to work at Indianola school district.
Laurie Noll, curriculum director at Burlington Community School District, begins duties July 1 as new superintendent in Fairfield.
Lox and Keokuk County Sheriff’s deputy Matt Murphy were on the meeting agenda, but Murphy didn’t attend.
Murphy and Lox were trained in the system and provided training to the Pekin Community School District a few months ago.
“A.L.I.C.E. goes beyond lockdown, though lockdown can be a part of the school’s emergency plan,” said Lox. “When we train a school district, it involves all staff — from administrators to custodians, bus drivers to teachers. It’s optional if you want students to go through the training.”
Lox said the training for school districts involves two hours of classroom work and viewing a PowerPoint presentation, then some hands-on training of running various emergency scenarios.
Literature from the system acknowledges, “Precisely what will happen in each event is unknown. That is why it is really impossible to build a policy or a set of procedures that will dictate a response.”
Each letter in the acronym A.L.I.C.E. represents optional action steps in response to a violence emergency. A is for Alert.
“How will you alert your school or building?” said Lox. “How do you inform mostly the staff, but also students, what’s happening? Inform them where the emergency is happening.”
The alert process includes contacting 911.
The literature urges users to “Get the word out. Use clear, concise language to convey the type and location of the event.”
The L stands for Lockdown, which is a place to start, according to the literature. A lockdown allows for aggressive use of current technologies and procedures.
I — Inform addresses ongoing communication within a building, which can keep a shooter off balance. “Be aggressive,” advises the literature on this point. “This allows for good decision making.”
Inform people the who, what, where, when and how of the event.
People in an emergency situation should have options, said Lox. That’s where C comes in — Counter. “Apply skills to distract, confuse and gain control,” according to the literature.
“What can you do to protect yourself? What can you do to distract the violent person? We have to have options other than sitting under desks waiting to be shot as a non-moving target,” he said.
“This training is to help you be aware of the situation and have some ideas for distraction, such as throwing a water bottle or a can of soda at the shooter’s head. It’s not going to injure him but it could throw him off enough for other people to tackle him,” said Lox.
The idea is to make noise and create distractions so the shooter needs to use as much skill as possible to shoot a target.
And finally E for Evacuate.
“The old way was lock doors — if they lock — and hide and don’t move,” said Lox. “And in some situations that still works. But if you have a chance to escape through a window, evacuate through a door, but not down a long hallway, take it, unless the violent person is right there.
“Reduce the number of potential targets for the shooter, and reduce the chances of victims resulting from friendly fire when help arrives,” advises the literature.
Lockdown may remain the only option, and suggestions are included in the training about what to do in lockdowns.
The training also said staff and students must provide first aid and immediate trauma care for any injured until medical personnel can enter the building.
Some common concerns and questions addressed in the A.L.I.C.E. handout Lox provided about the training include:
• If my child gets proactive, couldn’t they get hurt?
Yes, they could. But being passive and static has not shown to be an effective response in most active shooter events. The differences of tragic outcomes in the classrooms at Virginia Tech are a good example explaining the difference in passive and active in determining survival chances.
• Why change what has always worked?
Has “lockdown” really worked, or have just the practice drills always worked? We know the names of many schools around the world precisely because “lockdown” did not meet their needs during the violence, and tragedy ensued.
• Isn’t this what the police are for?
Obviously the police cannot be at all places, all of the time. Hundreds of rounds can be expended in just mere minutes.
• Should we be teaching aggression in schools?
This training is teaching proactive, survival skills. Aggressiveness is a mindset that will assist a person in putting those skills to work.
• Won’t we lose control of the event if people make their own decision and do whatever they decide they need to do?
Yes, there will be a time when centralized command and control will be lost. But in actuality, there is anyway. During the initial attack, the attacker is in control. Proactive action on behalf of the targets will quickly remove the shooter’s command and control. Also, command and control ability of the administration and police is secondary to the ability of those under attack to survive.
• Isn’t there a possibility of secondary attacks if people are trying to leave the area?
There’s always a possibility of a secondary attack, no matter what the event. But our fear of the unknown should not interfere with our manner of dealing with the known. Common sense says a shooter inside a building should dictate getting out, much more than the fear of perhaps another shooter outside should dictate staying inside with the known shooter. Any shooters outside will be contacted and neutralized by police much quicker than one inside the building.
• Won’t proactive actions agitate the gunman to commit violence?
It’s accepted that these people seek one thing — as big a body count as they can achieve in the time afforded to them. How can a determined killer be made more violent?
• Who should make the decision as to what is the best option to take?
Those under attack should make the decision that is best for them given the situation. It is unrealistic to think we can write a policy that 10 years down the road will precisely fit the violent situation we are experiencing. Information and training is what will allow those under attack to make an informed decision to fight, flight or freeze, and that will lead to their survival.