I am a certified school risk manager. As such I get invited to a lot of trainings about safety in schools. I went to a life changing & life-saving seminar last week in that capacity and in the wake of the most recent school shooting I wanted to share some information. The reality is that change on gun control, mental health, or whatever you believe to be the root cause of these shootings is not going to happen fast enough to protect you if something happens tomorrow and I want you all to go home safe and sound every night.
First, a few quick facts…
“70% of the incidents occurred in either a commerce/business or educational environment. (1)”
“In 64 incidents where the duration of the incident could be ascertained, 44 (69%) of 64 incidents ended in 5 minutes or less, with 23 ending in 2 minutes or less” (1).
Also, 13% of events are ended by UNARMED citizens, not law enforcement (1).
Finally, it takes an average of 5-8 minutes (in a metro area) for law enforcement to be notified and dispatched as well as for them to respond and arrive at the scene. Once they get there, on average it takes an additional 7-12 minutes for entry, location, and contact with the shooter (2).
Do the math and let these facts sink in for a moment!
What these facts tell us is that the speed at which these events unfold means that you have to respond based on where you are in the moment, what you have on your person at the moment, and what is around/near you in the moment. It also tells us that using the convention training of lock down, huddle in a corner, and wait for help is a really bad idea. In most cases, the police, despite their very best and most efficient efforts CANNOT SAVE YOU. It is up to you to save yourself.
Enter, ALICE Training. This amazing company was created by a law enforcement officer who wanted to help his wife (a school principal) have the best possible chance at surviving a school shooting.
ALICE stands for:
At the onset, this doesn’t seem much different than traditional training, but here is the main difference. ALICE is not a sequential, single strategy approach. It is better described as a multiple-choice assessment that you can do in the moment using situational awareness to increase the odds of survival. In addition, it puts the power into the hands of the people in actual harms way instead of bureaucrats, politicians, upper management, or anyone else. In short it empowers YOU, the citizen, to make decisions for YOURSELF, and if you choose, others, while in an active shooter situation. More so, because it was designed by law enforcement professionals, it doesn’t compromise anything that they would do to help, once they get there, if the incident is still playing out.
Alert – This your first awareness of danger. The sooner you know you are in danger, the sooner you can act. This can be tricky as we tend to second guess ourselves or mistake gunfire for other things. If you even think that something is wrong, respond accordingly. Worse case scenario you look a little silly for overreacting, best case scenario, you survive an active shooter incident.
Lockdown – IF evacuation is not possible, then it may be best to barricade. There are some easy ways to barricade out of items that most would have near or on them. Once you have secured the entry points there are two other things you need to do. First, use the time you are in lockdown to prepare for other strategies that may come into play. Second, spread out. DO NOT HUDDLE! Spreading out in the room significantly increases EVERYONE’S chances of getting out alive or possible just injured.
I want to pause here to share a story with you about a demonstration on this that was done in my class to further drive this point home. The instructor got 10 volunteers and then used a training gun with a laser to show us two scenarios. The first scenario he came into the room and all 10 people were huddled in a corner. Once he identified where the huddle was, he closed his eyes and started shooting. Every single person was shot multiple times in places where survival was not likely. In the second scenario, the same 10 people and the same approach into the room. The only difference, they spread out to different points in the room. Seven people evacuated while three were shot. Of the three that were shot only two would have been fatal. While having even two people die is awful, it is better odds than all ten. IF YOU LEARN NOTHING ELSE, REMEMBER THIS POINT.
Inform – This can be seen as a continuation of the alert. Nothing will disrupt a shooter’s plan more and/or increase odds of safe evacuation and survival for others than continuously communicating as much information as possible, while it is happening. Video monitoring, PA announcements, 911 calls, etc. can be used in real time to update internal and external players as to the whereabouts of the shooter. Remembering that these events happen quickly and often change from moment to moment, it makes sense to continuously update so that everyone can either evacuate, if it is safe to do so, or prepare for direct danger.
Counter – As much as we all would like to think that we could “take” a shooter in an active confrontation, note that this strategy DOES NOT mean fighting. Rather, it is about using noise, movement, distance and other distractions to hinder the shooter’s ability to aim and fire with accuracy. It is your chance to take back control. This strategy is based on the wisdom of the OODA loop, a decision cycle developed and used by military strategists, and has been adopted by law enforcement agencies across the country. Essentially, when you disrupt someone in the process of a decision by creating a dynamic environment, the person has to stop to observe, orient, decide, and act again. That pause can provide you with the opportunity needed to use other strategies and/or stop the shooter. It can be seen as the strategy of last resort.
Evacuate – Knowing techniques for safe and strategic evacuations is critical. There are so many technique, rules of thumb, and other methods that normal, every-day citizens do not know exist. Things like how to properly break glass, how to jump from heights in a way that provides the best survival, or how to carry a gun that you have taken from the shooter so as not to put yourself in harms way with officers arriving on the scene. All of these are really simple to learn and teach, even to kids.
The unfortunate reality is that active shooter scenarios are on the rise and there is no widespread, agreed upon solution in sight. It has become clear that waiting for change and/or the policy to save you are dangerous options to place your faith in. In fact, the FBI has concluded, “Recognizing the increased active shooter threat and the swiftness with which active shooter incidents unfold, these study results support the importance of training and exercises – not only for law enforcement but also for citizens. It is important, too, that training and exercises include not only an understanding of the threats faced but also the risks and options available in active shooter incidents. (1)”
Please, become a person of action, and learn how to save yourself. Through ALICE Training every citizen can be educated individually, every business can educate their staff, and every law enforcement agency can better serve its citizens. I can honestly say, apart from my roles as a risk manager and business owner, I feel way more confident as a mother and an ordinary citizen that if I were in this situation, I would be prepared to survive, and I want you to have that confidence too.
As we wrap up I think it is important to note, that I am not a certified instructor with this company. I am simply relaying the vital information I learned from them to all of you AND offering hands on demonstrations of what I learned. Nor am I being paid to endorse them. In addition, if you and/or your company would like to take this training and/or become certified, please reach out to me and I will put you in touch with them and assist with discounts, scheduling, and anything else that is in my power.
(1) A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013, US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 16, 2013, Washington, DC
(2) Cunningham, Chad (February 15, 2018). Response to a Violent Intruder Seminar. ALICE Training and Philadelphia Insurance Companies, Las Vegas, NV.
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