On April 1st, 2014 my Mass Communications Laws & Ethics class found ourselves in the upstairs classroom in the Union on the University of Northern Iowa’s campus. The reason our meeting in this unusual location? Training on what to do in the event a school shooting occurs.
After attending my weekly Campus Activities Board meetings, I swiftly headed to class, approximately 45 minutes late. When I opened the door at the back of the class, immediately all 40+ of the rooms occupants turned around and starred. Normally I’d be used to this as, I’m quite a looker. However because every eye in the room was laying upon me at that moment, I realized something was going on.
Little had I known the class was in the early stages of the ALICE technique. ALICE stands for: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. It was obvious that everyone was highly alert that day from the looks I was shot upon entering the room. ALICE was designed to increase student and faculty survival, decision making, and aftermath schools when school shootings occur.
After watching a series of clips detailing a number of school and public shootings around the world, the University of Northern Iowa Campus Police went into detail about what should occur if an unfortunate incident like the ones in the clips were to take place here at UNI.
First off students need to be alert at all time. Being aware of your surroundings; what room you’re in, exit points, and safety cards are key. Knowing your surroundings are key to initial escape, when possible. Another important aspect of being alert is knowing what’s going on around you. What are you seeing and hearing? Taking notice of these things are often times the key to identifying the assailant, which can help the authorities lead to a quicker arrest.
The next step is Lockdown. When individuals are unable to safely exit the building mandatory lockdown must occur. Closing the blinds, locking the windows, silencing all cellular devices, placing signs in windows, quieting all occupants of the room, and securing the room through whatever means necessary are essential in the event a lockdown situation occurs. By securing the room, and placing the necessary cards in the windows, authorities can be alerted that people are still inside waiting to be rescued. The lockdown will also help slow the gun man’s access to students as he struggles to enter secured classrooms and offices.
The I in ALICE stands for inform. As soon as the room is secured a designated person should contact the authorities, notifying them of the building name and room number the occupants are held in during the lockdown. It is essential that one notifies the authorities of the number of people in the room as well as of any injuries sustained, if any at all. Providing real time information can also be the key to capturing the assailant. This is why staying alert is important, because if you have any information that can help the police identify the gun man, you can relay that information to them in a timely manner.
Counter, otherwise known as the ‘C’ in ALICE is one of the most important letters in the abbreviation. If the gun man tries to access the room this is what ALICE instructs students to do:
- Throw any and all items available to you at the assailant when he/she attempts to enter the room
- Once the assailant is down, one individual must take the lead along with at least three others to swarm the assailant. The team lead should grab the gun in a secure position, then the team of four should each grab a limb, arms and legs, and hold the assailant on the ground.
- Once the assailant is secured by the team of four, the gun needs to be secured.
Once the gunman and his weapon are both secured, students should begin to aid the injured.
The final step in ALICE is ‘E,’ which stands for Evacuate. It was stated in our presentation that “shooting is a skill,” meaning if you are able to exit the building, do not run in a straight line. Assailants armed and trained to use riffles can hit targets straight on from nearly a mile away. Also by becoming aware of your surroundings you can choose the best evacuation method for you. Is it better for you to cover yourself and run or conceal yourself in bushes? You must decide. It is also imperative that if, when evacuating the building, you see police you head toward them.
The importance of knowing what to do if a school or public shooting occur is imperative to your survival. Before walking into that classroom I had always envisioned myself in a superhero-esque mode if a shooting were to break out. I envisioned myself fighting off the attacker, securing the gun, and saving the day all by myself. Now I realize how unrealistic that scenario actually is. The ALICE training technique is a smart move on the all campus who make it mandatory. I believe that if every school in America teaches these tactics far less fatalities will occur during the next school shooting.