ALICE Drill Held at PaliHi

By SUE PASCOE

Editor

 

ALICE: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evade. In March, Palisades High School held a drill not only to help students learn what to do if an active shooter ever came on campus, but also “to apply these same principles in their personal lives,” said David Riccardi, director of operations.

Several faculty and staff members were designated as “intruders,” and when an alarm was sounded with a shot from a starter’s pistol, the “intruders” attempted to enter classrooms.

This was the second year that the drill had been conducted in classrooms, and unlike 2015 when students were first learning survival techniques, this year all of the doors were shut promptly, barricaded from the inside with desks and bookcases.

Several “intruders” begged, “I’m a coach, I’m with students, let me in.” None of the classrooms opened the door, which is exactly the response Riccardi sought.

If there was a lesson taken away, the students were quiet the first time “intruders” tried to enter, but as time elapsed became noisy and taunted their would-be attackers.

“This would be giving away their position,” Riccardi said. “In a real event a lockdown could be hours.”

Also, the cafeteria had not heard the announcement; this will change the next time the drill is done.

ALICE is the first active shooter response program that was authored by a police officer to protect his wife, an elementary school principal. The program was developed because “We want all Americans to have the knowledge and skills to survive when shots are fired,” the officer said.

Riccardi noted that ALERT is when someone first becomes aware of a threat and realizes he or she is in danger and must immediately react. It is about overcoming denial, that the sooner you understand you are in danger, the sooner you can save yourself.

The next step for PaliHi students was to barricade the room (LOCKDOWN), especially if evacuation was not an option. Students were taught not only how to seal their rooms, which do not have easily accessible windows and also contain sturdy fire doors, but how to communicate with police via mobile and electronic devices.

The purpose of INFORM was to continue to communicate information in as real time as possible, if it is safe to do so. According to those who work with schools, “Armed intruder situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly, which means that ongoing, real-time information is key to making effective survival decisions. Information should always be clear, direct and in plain language, not using codes. If the shooter is known to be in an isolated section of a building, occupants in other wards can safely evacuate while those in direct danger can perform enhanced lockdown and prepare to counter.”

If this were a real situation, video surveillance, 911 calls and PA announcements would be some of the avenues that PaliHi would use to keep students safe.

The fourth part of ALICE is COUNTERing, which is not fighting. Riccardi emphasized that ALICE training does not believe that actively confronting a violent intruder is the best method for ensuring the safety of those involved; rather, counter is a strategy of last resort. In the case of the high school, students were safe behind locked doors and did not need to practice this aspect, which focuses on creating noise, movement, distance and distraction with the intent of reducing a shooter’s ability to shoot accurately.

EVADE is the last part of ALICE. In this case, by staying hunkered down in the classroom, Pali students would be able to evade a shooter.

“This is a learning experience for us,” Riccardi said. “Every time we do it, we learn more.”

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