Local law enforcement officers who are certified ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) trainers brought information to Park Rapids Area High School staff this week and hope to extend the training to Nevis and Laporte schools.
"A couple of officers who are trainers were at the school to give a presentation to the teachers and we're going to do that in the other schools in the county and for the officers as well," Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes said. "We did the orientation part this week. Later on, we're going to be doing more of the hands-on stuff."
Four local officers are now trainers
Hubbard County Chief Deputy Scott Parks and officer Troy Christenson are ALICE-certified trainers, as are Park Rapids police officers Mike Mercil and Joe Rittgers.
Police Chief Jeff Appel said he believes the training will benefit officers, schools and the entire community.
"We've been working with the school district to make our school staff and students as safe as possible," he said. "In meetings with the school district, Hubbard County Sheriff and Park Rapids PD all together, we identified ALICE as a training platform we would like to see implemented within the school district, police department and sheriff's office. We've been doing scenario-based training in active shooters already. ALICE is just one additional training program for our officers, staff and students. God-willing nothing ever happens, but we want to be as prepared as we can be if something does. When people hear ALICE and lockdown, they immediately think of active-shooter scenarios. You could have numerous different scenarios where a school could go on lockdown. It could be an unidentified person in the school or a bomb threat. It's not specific to just shooters. We're not just focused on active threats; we're working to make our school as safe and secure as possible."
Appel said the Park Rapids school holds various lockdown drills, and each is an opportunity for training not only for the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office and police but for school staff.
"It's a learning process," he said. "We can help the school identify concerns, then sit down afterwards and discuss what we saw and what we could do better."
ALICE enhances lockdown options
Parks said officers will use the training to show schools and individuals different options for safety. He explained that the traditional lock-down approach that has been taught in trainings the past two decades has been found to be "not the most effective approach" in these types of situations.
"ALICE training enhances the traditional lockdown approach of locking doors, shutting off lights and having students away from windows by adding the option of evacuating when possible or barricading the room," he said.
The next step with the staff will be to train in the "hands-on" portion and then it will be up to the school district how they want to implement that with their student body.
"Training on other options and empowering the individual to make the best decision based on the circumstances they are facing will help improve the possibility of survival," he said. "I definitely think it will enhance the safety of our schools. It's a simple curriculum. Evacuate, enhanced lockdown or in worst-case scenario they teach you counter techniques like distraction, movement or noise to try and escape or evade if the threat is right there in front of you and you can't utilize the other options."
Training benefits community
Parks said, in many active-shooter situations, law enforcement response time is such that there could be a time lapse from when the incident begins and a call is made to dispatch and when help arrives.
"Depending on where the incident is taking place, it could be anywhere from five minutes to 20 minutes if it's up in part of the county where a deputy has to respond from aways away," he said.
Officers will be involved in more trainings throughout the school year. The ALICE training can benefit the community as well.
"It's not just schools; it's places of worship, businesses and government entities," Parks said. "Hubbard County is contemplating implementing it for all county staff. We're attempting to set up a class here in Park Rapids where we would host the training for other agencies and entities along with the Park Rapids school district."
Nevis School Board member Justin Isaacson recently completed a two-day ALICE certification in Detroit Lakes. He told the school board Monday night that he hopes more area officers will have the opportunity to be trained in how to deal with school shootings.
"We did some real-life scenarios," he said. "There were a lot of law enforcement members there, which was good to see. It was very educational. We had a lot of good input and feedback from different communities and learned about the challenges they face. I think it's the right approach. At least it's not just complacency where we're just sitting on our laurels and hoping it doesn't happen here."
Isaacson added, "We need to take these steps and get the repetition and muscle memory to react to a situation instead of just being a victim. I was very impressed and very grateful I was selected to go there. It was beneficial and the law enforcement officers who were there really gained from it. It was good to have them there as well."
Any organizations interested in ALICE training can contact the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office at 732-3331 or the Park Rapids Police Department at 237-2711.