A new reality: Students train for active shooters in school
Depending upon where you grew up, fire, earthquake and tornado drills were the norm in your school. These days, the Anchorage School District and other schools across the country are implementing a new protocol to teach students and faculty what to do if an active shooter or intruder is in the building.
"This is the way we do things now," Tudor Elementary principal Nicole Sommerville said. "This came in last year. It's unfortunately how we do business now."
The new protocol is called ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.
"It used to be that we would just say lockdown and keep everything silent," Sommerville said. "Now, we are supposed to get on the radios and let all the teachers know that they can get on radios and the intercom button to let everyone know what they know and where it is happening."
Special verbage is used throughout the whole school district to alert students and faculty what is happening.
"During the drill, we tell the teachers where the shooter or intruder has moved to," Sommerville said. "We started in the art room and then moved from there. We know an intruder won't stay in one place, so this gives the teachers and students time to think of what to do next."
Those decisions need to be made in one to two seconds.
"We talk to the kids about the situations," teacher Jim Schewe said. "They know when to listen and to listen to the adults in the room because we are the ones that have to make the decisions. Do we get out of the building or do we stay and hide? What is our best option? If we do go outside, the kids know where to run, we have a rally point out there."
The rally point is well off campus and the students only went out to the road just outside the school during the drill's first indoor/outdoor sequence.
"Today is just practice," Schewe said. "As teacher's we need to make split-second decisions as to what is our best option. Since this is the first time we are practicing this like this, we need to do it in a safe manner so that nobody is getting freaked out. We don't want anybody getting hurt as they are exiting the building or trying to find a place to hide."
The teachers at Tudor Elementary were told the drill would happen on Wednesday but were not told the exact time. This gave each classroom time to discuss what was going to happen.
"It gave them time to talk about it," Sommerville said. "That way the kids know what is happening. We've practiced before, we've gone over the wording throughout the year. The last time we did one of these, it was more of a lockdown because of where the kids were located and where the event was located."
When the drill started, there was no panic, no chaos and no hysteria. The kids who were told to go outside were out of the building in 30 to 60 seconds. Students told to stay indoors went on lockdown with some even barricading their room's door. Despite the fact that the kids are very responsive to the training, Tudor Elementary teacher Jim Schewe has mixed feelings about it.
"They've been very mature about the whole thing, which is great on one hand," Schewe said. "On the other hand, it's kind of sad that they are growing up in a situation like this. This is kind of like the new norm. Which it shouldn't be. When we were going to school, we had earthquake drills, fire drills, depending where you were, maybe you had a tornado drill. There was never anything of this severity or magnitude, the consequences."
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