ALICE could save your life

Should the unthinkable occur -- an active shooting near you -- being prepared could save your life.

Authorities have developed training for the public based on insights gleaned from past shootings to help increase people’s chance of survival during active shooter events.

In the Rogue Valley, many school districts are using ALICE: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. The training expands options for those caught in an unfolding shooting event beyond the traditional lockdown methods of hiding and waiting for law enforcement.

Medford will have trained all of its staff, from teachers to custodians, in ALICE by the end of this school year. Students likely will be trained in future years.

Medford School Resource Officer Ian McDonald said the expanding market of training programs, including ALICE, typically build upon the “run, hide, fight” approach championed by the Department of Homeland Security in recent years. Experts do not all agree on how best to respond to an unfolding shooter situation.

“Run, hide, fight,” for example, doesn’t account for how many people freeze up when they’re entering fight-or-flight mode. ALICE trains participants how to unfreeze themselves and take action in the first step, the moment when you become aware of a threat.

Here are the five points of ALICE:

ALERT: The sooner you understand that you’re in danger, the sooner you can save yourself. A speedy response is critical. Seconds count.

“Alert is overcoming denial, recognizing the signs of danger and receiving notifications about the danger from others,” according to the ALICE Institute. “Alerts should be accepted, taken seriously, and should help you make survival decisions based on your circumstances.”

LOCKDOWN: If evacuation is not a safe option, barricade entry points into your room in an effort to create a semi-secure starting point.

INFORM: Communicate to others the violent intruder’s location and direction in real time. This can be done through a PA system, calls to 911, video surveillance and other methods.

COUNTER: Create noise, movement, distance and distraction with the intent of reducing the shooter’s ability to shoot accurately. Counter is NOT fighting.

“ALICE Training does not believe that actively confronting a violent intruder is the best method for ensuring the safety of those involved,” the ALICE Institute says. “Counter is a strategy of last resort.”

EVACUATE: When safe to do so, remove yourself from the danger zone.

Participants are trained how to safely break a window, get down safely from high floors and evacuate in duress.

ALICE and other trainings also recommend to always have some sort of plan for escape, such as keeping track of possible exit points whenever you enter a building. As with fires, always leave possessions behind and prioritize distancing yourself from a shooter. Call 911 only when you have reached a safe point after evacuating or have locked down the building. Silence cellphones so they will not alert the shooter to your presence.

While school staff are increasingly trained, students mostly go through more traditional lockdown and lockout drills, which are mandated by the state. But those, too, are evolving.

Isabella Ash, a junior at Ashland High School, said that this year, fire drills changed so that students only evacuate once they are informed that a fire alarm does, in fact, signal a fire. It happened, she said, after the Parkland shooting, in which the shooter pulled the fire alarm to get students to leave their classrooms and become exposed.

“The fire drill one has been really weird to think about,” Ash said.

Simone Stewart, a mother of a North Medford student and an employee of Southern Oregon University, has been training in ALICE at work. She and her son also have been through active-shooter response training at their synagogue, she said.

In her mind, “It’s not if, but when you’re in the situation,” she said.

Even with her ALICE training, Stewart said she felt like she knows little of how students are trained at school. But steps that the district took, such as installing doorbells at all schools beginning this year, help reassure her, she said.

“We talk about this stuff a lot more often than I would expect.” But, she added, “It can only have a good effect if we just really (are) thinking about it all the time.

“We just need to be aware.”

Read part 1 of this series here.

Read part 2 here.

Below is an "Options for Consideration Active Shooter Preparedness Video" from Homeland Security.

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