Police make parents aware of action plan
Chief pens letter explaining new school policy in case of armed intruder
Over the past several years our country has seen a dramatic increase in school violence and school shootings. As I read through expert analysis of these horrific events it became apparent to me that our community can do more to protect our children. We need an “Action Plan” to train students and staff on procedures that can increase their chances of surviving an Armed Assailant incident. This is why the Valdez Police Department urged the Valdez City Schools to adopt a new “Armed Assailant Emergency Action Plan” which focuses on teaching staff and students the “A.L.I.C.E.” response system to handle an Armed Assailant incident and other threats.
In the past our school systems have prepared for an Armed Assailant threat with a response called “Lockdown” or “Code Red.” These systems were designed so that in the event an Armed Assailant entered the school buildings or grounds, a Code Red or Lockdown alert would be issued. Students and staff were instructed to lock their classroom, turn the lights off and hide in a far corner, remaining calm and quiet. In many cases, this is an appropriate way to handle a threat. However, in reviewing the violent events as they have unfolded across the country, it has become crystal clear that “Lockdown” should not be the only response to an Armed Assailant. Too many times a locked classroom door has not kept an assailant out, and too many times an injury might have been prevented if a child was not huddled under a desk holding still. In the majority of these cases, the Armed Assailant is committed to the crime and their only agenda is as much carnage as possible. In the face of such senseless violence, it is critical to give students and staff as many tools as possible to increase their chances of survival. Valdez has reviewed many different response plans and selected “A.L.I.C.E.” because it allows students and staff the most flexibility in their response and the greatest chance to reach safety unharmed.
The Valdez School District has adopted an Armed Assailant Emergency Action Plan that teaches students and staff members to remember the acronym “A.L.I.C.E.” in times of trouble. “A.L.I.C.E.” stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. It is not a series of steps that must be followed in order. It is a range of options staff and students can remember and use to the best of their abilities based on their needs in each unique situation. Students and staff are instructed to always look for a safe evacuation route first and foremost, go into lockdown if necessary, and always be ready to defend themselves.
The “A.L.I.C.E.” strategy is a method of response that is endorsed and supported by the Department of Homeland Security, US Department of Education, New York City Police Department, FBI, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Although “A.L.I.C.E.” was created to increase individual survivability of an event in schools, it is a system that can be applied to a range of dangerous situations, and the Valdez Police Department encourages you to incorporate it into your own Emergency Plans within your workplace, household, and family.
A short outline of the options “A.L.I.C.E.” helps staff and students remember is as follows:
ALERT: Get the alert out! Yell. Call 9-1-1. Text message. Use the PA system. Anything to
alert everyone to the danger. Use clear, concise language to convey the type
and location of the Event. Listen carefully to the location and type of event.
Lockdown: This is the starting point for any Armed Assailant response. Lockdown until you
have enough information to evaluate whether it’s safe to evacuate. If you are
unsure or it’s not safe, barricade the door, turn out the lights and gather
anything that can be used for defense in case the classroom door is breached.
Inform: Communicate everything you experience. Good communication will keep the
Armed Assailant off balance and allows for good decision making.
Counter: Avoid confrontation at all costs, but if it is inevitable, use anything available for
defense. Do not sit still. Apply skills to distract, confuse and gain control of assailant.
Evacuate: This is always the first option. If there is a safe route to leave the building,
evacuate immediately! Reducing the number of potential targets an Armed Assailant has will absolutely save lives. The safest way to evacuate can be through a window.
Sometimes misinformation about the “A.L.I.C.E.” system causes parents to feel like their children are being taught to track down and confront a gunman with staplers and coffee cups. To be clear, in NO WAY are we asking our students or staff to make any attempt to subdue an Armed Assailant outside of their secure area. They are to evacuate or barricade doors with whatever they’ve got and hide to the best of their ability. However, sometimes it is not safe to evacuate, and sometimes a barricade does not hold. We will provide them the knowledge that if faced with a life or death situation there are methods that can be applied to greatly enhance their chance of survival. Being mentally prepared to defend themselves and having been given the authority and ability to act will save lives. Several key points they will be taught in the event they are directly confronted by an Armed Assailant are:
• Do not remain stationary. Moving drastically reduces the accuracy of gunfire
• Cause distractions to interfere with the ability to shoot accurately – throw things at the Armed Assailant’s head, swarm, create as much noise as possible.
• Cause as much chaos in the room as possible to create sensory overload.
• Control the attacker using body weight, not strength.
• Understand Law Enforcement response and know how to interact with responders
The “A.L.I.C.E.” system empowers staff and students to make choices based on real-time information they share with each other. It trains them to think critically about survival options and avoid becoming a stationary target.
It is my sincere hope that we will never have to use this system but, much like a fire
drill – it is always best to be prepared! If you need more information or have questions, the Valdez Police Department has several “A.L.I.C.E.” documents available to the public and can assist you. Please call (907) 835-4560.