ALICE Active Shooter Training More Important Than Ever

ALICE Training Institute offers shooter civilian response instruction.

In today’s world, having to be prepared for an active shooter anywhere, anytime, including at a meeting or convention, is a reality. The ALICE Training Institute offers shooter civilian response training for individuals and organizations, blending an online component and in-person training.

“We focus on what plans people have in place while waiting for law enforcement to arrive,” said Chad Cunningham, senior director of product management and an ALICE national trainer, in an interview with Prevue. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. The strategies taught during a training course increase survivability if there is an active shooter in a school, shopping center, house of worship, or other public place, according to Cunningham.

He notes that many people’s first response is to call police, but it can take a long few minutes before law enforcement arrives at a shooting scene. “Doing nothing is worse than doing something,” he said.

ALICE, which was founded in 2001 sparked by the shooting at Columbine school in Colorado, offers half-day, full-day and two-day trainings with centers across the country. The online course teaches basic strategies while the goal of the two-day training is to prepare trainees to be able to go back to their organization and share the plan. The strategy learned is an option-based approach, including simulation scenarios. There is also an option of having speakers come to an organization or potentially a meeting to talk about safety.

Cunningham says the key to implementing in case of a real-life scenario is continuous training. “I found the training informative and interesting,” said a Midwest-based seasoned (20+ years) corporate meeting professional who participated in a half-day training offered by the police department, which was open to the public.

She participated in a variety of drills. In one example, the trainers posed the question, if you hear a disturbance in another part of the building, what do you do? First, call 911 immediately. Don’t assume that someone else has already done so.

Other answers included moving tables or anything heavy to barricade doors; using a belt or a men’s shoe to tie off the door hinge so that the doors cannot be opened from the outside. She noted that this was demonstrated by slipping a men’s shoe over the hinge for it to be immobilized, and same with tying it off with a belt. Another option was to line up people on either side of the doors to prepare to fight back if the doors are breached. Turn off all cell phones so ringers can’t be heard. Turn off all lights so that it looks like room is empty and doors are locked.  If it sounds like the doors could be breached, start looking at alternate exits such as windows, doors to the outside.  See if the walls are just made of drywall.

“The officers told a story about how you can throw a chair or even a person through drywall to access another room to escape to,” she said.

She concurs with Cunningham, about the importance of continuous training. “I think it’s important to practice what they trained us on, on a regular basis. We found that personally, people tend to freeze in an emergency situation, and look to others on what to do.”

For example, without warning, the police officers came to her table and said, “What would you do if an intruder entered the room?” The two men at her table said they’d hide under the table. “I said I would take my cup of hot coffee and throw it in the shooter’s face. The other woman at the table said she would throw her heavy purse at the intruder to try to injure/distract him. It seemed like the women in the group had had to deal with emergency situations or to pre-think out what they would do in an emergency scenario, more than the men had.”

Some other takeaways she learned from this training, and also a recent “Duty of Care” program she attended, sponsored by Prevue:

  • In the last 46 years, there have been 160 safety/security incidents at a hotel property, in the U.S.
  • Twenty five percent of these incidents (40) have taken place in the last five years.
  • In the U.S. there are no common security standards across the Hospitality Industry.  Most emergency exit/evacuation plans are based on local fire code regulations.
  • Hotels are “soft targets” (open to the public 24/7, no metal detectors, no bag checks, they host large {maybe} controversial groups).
  • Groups/organizations needs to claim the process (not just rely on a hotel property to keep their attendees safe).

Though the planner doesn’t think that it’s helpful to try to train at a meeting since it could be too little too late, she poses what should be done is to provide people with exit information, preferably given by a chief security officer, and to make sure all exits from any meeting rooms are not blocked, are unlocked, have signage to the outside. Planners need to do their due diligence.  “Unfortunately, I think everyone in America today needs to be aware of ALICE type training and to seek it out and take it on their own,” she said.

Click here for more information about ALICE, and here for tips to keep in mind for emergency preparedness.

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