School lockdowns give way to ‘survival training’
Stressful. Intense. Scary.
That’s how Marysville school district staff members described the ALICE training they recently completed under the direction of the Union County Sheriff’s Department, Marysville Police Department and the Acrux Investigation Agency.
ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate) instruction is taking place in Marysville, North Union Local and Fairbanks Local schools. It involves 90 minutes of classroom discussion followed by live-action training.
“By the time we’re done with training at Fairbanks (on) Monday, 1,000 teachers will have been trained in the ALICE protocol,” Union County Sheriff Jamie Patton said.
Lt. Rob Bibart with the Union County Sheriff’s Office called it “survival” training.
He pointed out that in the past, school staff and students have been taught to lock down in place and hide when a shooter enters a building. In reality, he said, that makes students and staff extremely vulnerable.
A video shown during the training shows people hiding under desks while gunmen enter the room, kick the chairs out of the way and fire beneath the desks.
The shooting at Columbine High School in 1999 was a game-changer for law enforcement, he said. The gunmen killed 13 and injured 21. Ten of those killed were following old protocols by hiding in the library.
ALICE instructors showed a map of the Columbine school building, highlighting an exit from the library the victims could have taken if they had been taught to evacuate.
“It sounds bad to say, but typically, a shooter is trying to raise the body count,” Bibart said. “If you make things difficult for him, he’s going on to the next soft target.”
During the live-action training, school staff members were assigned to seven classrooms and given protective gear. They were instructed to respond as they would have in the past by moving students into a corner of the classroom in a lockdown procedure. A “gunman,” armed with an Airsoft gun that fires 6mm pellets, stormed into classrooms and fired into the group huddled in the corners.
The gunshots were so loud in the hallways that alarms went off.
The teachers said they felt like “sitting ducks.”
In the second scenario, participants were instructed to barricade themselves behind a classroom door and find anything they could to throw at the shooter. This time, the staff members grabbed belts and wrapped them around the door handle and shoved tables and chairs up against the door. When the gunman tried to come in during the second scenario, he was not able to get to any of the participants.
After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December, Superintendent Diane Mankins asked the Marysville Police Department and the Union County Sheriff’s Office to assess district buildings to determine what might be done to make them safer for students.
Both agencies found the district needs to stick to basics such as keeping doors shut and locked, not propped open; having staffers wear ID badges at all times; establishing uniform responses in every building; and making sure the staff is aware that anyone can call 911 and should do so in emergencies.
The ALICE training was the next step in the effort to improve school safety.
Bibart said dealing with school safety issues is not fun to think about, but if staff members use common-sense tactics, they have a better chance of making it through the ordeal.
“Stay focused. That’s what it takes to survive,” he said.
Marysville school officials said the next step in the district’s safety overhaul is to figure out a way to present ALICE training to students.