Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate
By Elizabeth Lehman
Youngstown State University had its most recent session of ALICE training on Monday in the Kilcawley Center. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate and is taught for the instance of an active shooter on campus.
ALICE training falls in line with recommendations from several government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Department of Education.
According to the ALICE Training Institute’s Higher Education Case Study published on the ALICE Training Institute website, the training helps people handle the threat of an active shooter by actively participating in their own survival. The technique advises running, then hiding if running is not an option, and then, lastly, fighting the shooter if confronted by them.
According to the case study, the technique was written by a police officer after the 1999 Columbine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado. He wrote ALICE to keep his wife, an elementary school principal, safe in the event of another school shooting.
The Jambar spoke to YSU Police Department officer Donald Cox, who was the university’s first officer trained in ALICE and is certified to instruct others. Cox said there are now five other officers certified to teach ALICE. This is the university’s third year offering the training.
“We do it twice a month, every other month,” Cox said. “They’ll send out emails, and then you can sign up for that on the emails.”
Participation in ALICE is voluntary, Cox said. There had been discussion of making ALICE training part of all incoming freshman students’ orientation before Police Chief John Beshara’s contract with YSU was not renewed earlier this year.
“At the time, with just me being the instructor, it wasn’t feasible,” Cox said. “It was too much volume, and so we started these others to get certified, so we could start doing that, and then his contract wasn’t renewed, and that kind of went to the wayside.”
Cox said that lockdown had originally been the commonly practiced technique for school shootings and was adopted around the late ’80s or early ’90s.
“It came from California. At that time in California, gang violence was going through the roof, and that’s when they were doing all the drive bys,” Cox said. “The thing with lockdown is, for a drive by, it’s fantastic.”
While having students in lockdown makes sense when there is a shooter outside the school, Cox said, it is not ideal when an active shooter is inside the school’s perimeter.
“That’s horrible when there’s an active shooter in there,” Cox said.
ALICE training teaches running away from the scene as the first, ideal course of action in an active shooter situation. Next, ALICE advises locking down the room and barricading the door. Confronting and attempting to fight the shooter is only recommended as a final resort.
“If they try to get into that room, the jig is up,” Cox said. “Then you have to start yelling, screaming, letting them know that if they come in there, you’re going to beat them up, that you’re not going to be some victim sitting on the floor.”
Cox stressed the importance of working together in this dangerous situation, saying people have to make the decision as a group.
“If you’re in a room and there’s four other people in there, you have to say to them, ‘Get up, we’ve got to fight, if he gets in here, it’s five on one,’” Cox said. “Even though he’s got a gun, it’s doing something.”
ALICE training has been taught at schools across the country as an alternative to solely locking students down in their classrooms. The “counter” aspect of the training has sometimes been controversial with parents, Cox said.
“A lot of times parents in high schools and elementary, they have problems with that,” Cox said. “‘You’re teaching my kid to fight a gunman.’ No, we’re not. We want the children to leave.”
Cox said countering should only be used as an absolute last measure, when people are confronted by the gunman.
“What do you want your child to do when the gunman is one of them in class, and pulls a gun and starts shooting people? Do you want your child to sit on the floor, under a table? Or do you want them to actually engage?”
In The Event of an Active Shooter:
Run: If there is a safe path accessible, the first course of action should be to run out of the building to somewhere as far away as possible.
- Have an escape route and destination in mind
- Take others with you if they will go but do not stay behind if they won’t
- Leave your belongings behind
- Avoid escalators and elevators
- Keep your hands visible so police know you are not armed
- Follow the instructions of any police officers on the scene
- Do not attempt to move wounded people
- Call 911 when you are in a safe place
Hide: If running away is not a possibility, find a place to hide where the shooter is less likely to find you.
- Hide out of the shooter’s view
- Look for a place that might provide protection, like an office with a closed and locked door
- Barricade doors with heavy furniture or use a purse or book bag strap to restrict metal arms of doors
- Turn off the lights and silence any electronic devices and remain silent
- Remain in place if possible until given the all clear by police
- Hide along the wall closest to the exit but out of view of the hallway to allow for possible ambush and escape if the shooter enters the room
Fight: When neither running nor hiding is a safe option, people in imminent danger should attempt to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter.
- Throw items and improvising weapons
- Yell, making the shooter’s stress levels increase and possibly limiting their accuracy
- Fight in a group
- Commit to your actions
(List compiled from U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Education and Officer Donald Cox of Youngstown State University Police Department)