Proactive not Reactive

By Makeda Melkie '19

October 2018 Issue

      Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate: the five-step plan that, according to ALICE’s website, is “raising the bar in security.” ALICE is a training institute that provides organizations with the preparation to “proactively handle the threat of an aggressive intruder or active shooter event.” Of those organizations, ALICE also provides a K-12 training program for schools all over the country.  In fact, schools are the main institution that this program was designed for.

      ALICE was developed by Greg Crane after the tragic event that occurred in Columbine High School on April 10th, 1999. It was on this day that two armed shooters entered a highschool, killed 13 people and then commited suicide. Although it wasn’t the first of its kind, the shooting at Columbine reshaped the way that people look at school safety due to its high media exposure.  

      In an video created by ALICE, Crane states how it was this event that led to a national investigation on “how our civilian organizations were being trained and prepared to deal with an active killer.”  They uncovered that the only recommended, and in most cases mandated, response for emergencies was the lockdown procedure.

      The problem with lockdowns, however, is that it is a set plan that everyone must follow regardless of the scenario. Lockdowns don’t adapt, and it’s that inflexibility that causes avoidable casualties. Crane explained that, “in those instances, knowing how to sit silently in a corner under a desk did not apply to their situation and may have actually helped the attackers reach their incredibly high casualty numbers.” He states that “if they find you and you do nothing you will be hurt.” Therefore when ALICE was created, it aimed toward creating a five-step, option-based plan, that organizations can use and adapt to fit their situation.

      At SSSAS students were first introduced to ALICE at the end of September. Students have twice practiced  barricading the doors of their classrooms using the furniture in the classroom.

      “I definitely think that it’s better than what we used to do, like huddle in corners, cause having a procedure in place and having instructions will at the very least calm people down,” said Chase Cohen ‘19. “Yes, it does take a lot of time to barricade and it’s definitely loud but I think it important that we do it.”

      Gummy Nichols ‘19 siad “I feel safer,”

      Liliana Dowling ‘20 states that “I think ALICE is going to be very beneficial in terms of knowing skills in the future and it seems to be a lot better than our previous lockdown procedures.”

      In an interview with Mr. Mallett, director of the upper school, he explains the reasons for our school’s shift towards ALICE.  He states that “We are always evaluating our safety protocols from building evacuations, to safe shelters and to lockdowns.” The idea for the transition was first introduced by Ms. Adams, the head of school and the head of security, Mr. RIvera. Faculty members went through an online training, as well as another in-person training over the summer to learn the ALICE tactics.  

      Mr. Mallett voiced his appreciation to the program and said that “I think ALICE provides our students and adults an option-based response to make a decision that they feel is in the best interest given the information that they have.”

      In regards to the concerns brought up from students during the first barricading drill he states that the main goal in our introduction to ALICE was to, other than practice, have an opportunity to look at the building in a different way. “We probably were not noticing the way doors opened, we probably were not noticing the degree of furniture so now that we have that feedback form we will be able to get a better sense of the stats of things so that we can make decisions.”

      Ms. McGuire, the upper school dean of students, trained with the ALICE program herself and became an instructor. She states that when she was first introduced to ALICE she was inspired and, “just knew that everything that we have been doing for lockdowns have been wrong.” Ms. McGuire was introduced to the program during summer along with other faculty members but she personally asked to become an instructor to be better equipped with ALICE tactics and teach faculty and students then as well.

      She has an overall positive outlook on ALICE and expressed that although it’s unfortunate that we live in a society where students have to know tactics to combat intruders “it is such an important movement and I want all schools to be using ALICE.”

     In response to some concerns from faculty and students during the trials, Ms. McGuire ensures that the school is taking steps to make everything as efficient and effective as possible.  For example she states that “there are things that we are going to improve in our school building itself, we are going to be making sure that everyone has a landline phone in their classrooms so we can better communicate and ultimately we will be teaching folks how to safely break glass if they need to.” Most importantly however, she explains how due to the fact that we are transitioning to a new system this year, it’s going to be more of a practice year and moving forwards we will do drills.