“Tragedy happens in a blink of an eye,” Park Rapids Police Officer Joe Rittgers told an audience of roughly 100 people during introductory ALICE training. The free event was held Feb. 20 at Calvary Lutheran Church.
Rittgers, who is also a school resource officer, led the training with Park Rapids Police Detective Sergeant Sabin Rasmus.
ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate – but, they emphasized, it is not meant to be a sequential order of action.
Not every active shooter event is the same, Rittgers said.
After showing video clips of an active shooter at a Mexican school and at the Fort Lauderdale airport, Rasmus said it’s understandable that people froze or laid down because they were scared. “But at that point, we have the option to fight back or to run. That’s what adequate training does,” he said.
In April 1999, two teens went on a shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, killing 13 people and wounding more than 20 others before turning their guns on themselves and committing suicide. At the time, the Columbine shooting was the worst high school shooting in U.S. history.
With ALICE training, Rasmus said 40 kids in that school library could have escaped, but they were taught to hide under their desks, tables or chairs. The shooters were in a different portion of the school, he continued, and there was a nearby exit. The students didn’t evacuate, and eventually, the shooters arrived.
“It’s hard to talk about. It’s hard to watch. It’s hard to fathom there’s that much evil out there, but there is, and it’s real. We’re trying to help you in the community if that does happen,” Rasmus said.
“We like to do this training because it’s quality,” agreed Rittgers. “ALICE can save lives.”
If someone appears with a gun, the officers urged people to run because it’s harder to hit a moving target versus someone who is standing or sitting. Shooters are looking for “soft targets,” the officers explained, and they want a large body count.
“Every time I go to a room, I know where the exits are,” Rasmus said. “You walk into a big restaurant or a gymnasium, familiarize yourself real quick.”
Alert others that there is someone with a gun or knife.
“Let your voice be heard,” Rasmus said.
If escape is not immediately possible, lockdown the area. Barricade the doors to buy yourself time. Realize that glass and solid doors can be defeated, Rittgers said, citing the Columbine, Hastings, Sandy Hook and Red Lake shootings. Move filing cabinets or pile up chairs – anything heavy – against the door.
Shooters “want to hurt as many people as they can. If they come to a door and they can’t get it open, they aren’t going to spend too much time on it,” he said.
Designate someone to call 911 and provide law enforcement with real-time information – the who, what, when, where and how of the situation.
“Never open the door,” Rasmus said, or at least have protocols if someone may be trapped in the hallway because opening the door puts the other people in the room at risk. That’s what happened at the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, he noted. The teacher kept opening the door. “Most of the fatalities happened in that classroom.”
It could be a six-hour lockdown, Rittgers said, so consider having a First Aid kit, tourniquets and snacks at the ready. Use a garbage can for a toilet.
Tourniquets can be used for arterial bleeds, Rasmus said, and can be “left on for hours and hours without losing a limb. It can save your life.”
Hubbard County First Responders offer Stop the Bleed training. Begun by the American College of Surgeons, the program teaches three quick actions to control serious bleeding.
When confronted face-to-face with an active shooter, countering is the last resort. It may mean throwing objects, shouting “drop the gun” or hitting him with a purse. Pepper spray also works.
“Spray away. That’s a counter,” Rasmus said. “Anything you can think of.”
The officers demonstrated how to grab the hand with the gun and push the arm down toward the shooter’s leg. If others assist, they can constrain the shooter’s other leg and arm.
At the West Freeway Church of Christ in Texas, “a good guy with a gun” ended that shooting, but the officers said you don’t have to have a gun. A church safety team, for example, could be extra vigilant and unarmed.
Rasmus said he disagrees with arming teachers.
“Are you prepared to take the life of one of your students?” he asked. “In all shootings, they knew that person. They sat with that person. It’s very, very rare that a shooter is a random person.”
What ALICE means
Alert is your first notification of danger. 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.
Lockdown the room. If evacuation is not a safe option, barricade entry points into your room in an effort to create a semi-secure starting point and use your time in lockdown to prepare to use other strategies (i.e. Counter or Evacuate) that might come into play should the active shooter gain entry.
Inform. Communicate the violent intruder’s location and direction in real time. 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.
Counter focuses on actions that create noise, movement, distance and distraction with the intent of reducing the shooter’s ability to shoot accurately or provide the precious seconds needed in order to evacuate. Counter is NOT fighting. The ALICE Training Institute does not believe that actively confronting a violent intruder is the best method for ensuring the safety of those involved. Counter is a strategy of last resort.
Evacuate. When safe to do so, remove yourself from the danger zone. Evacuating to a safe area takes people out of harm’s way and hopefully prevents civilians from having to come into any contact with the shooter.
Source: ALICE Training Institute