The Pryor Times

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January 16, 2014

ALICE training: Are you prepared?

PRYOR, OK — “Are you prepared for when today is not like yesterday?”

Day two of Pryor Junior High School’s ALICE training began just hours after a school shooting occurred in New Mexico.

ALICE training at Pryor Junior High School Tuesday began with this question. Approximately 190 freshman students piled into the cafeteria for the training led by Pryor Police Department's School Resource Officer Jeremy Cantrell.

ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate and is a program taught nationwide as a violent intruder response plan. All Pryor Public School teachers have attended the course. Now, per school board's approval, the course is being taught to all Pryor students.

“This training is to give you options, it's not to scare you,” said Cantrell. He believes the course is necessary in present-day school systems.

Cantrell explained to the students they were attending to learn “options to stay safe should they find themselves in a dangerous or life-threatening situation,” and “so they can make a decision.

“ALICE works with your three natural responses, fight, flight or freeze,” Cantrell said. “The fight response is countering, flight is evacuating and freeze is lockdown.”

Cantrell went on to explain the components of the three reactions, giving the student practical examples.

“Lockdown, for example, is not effective if the gunman is in the room with you. But if you are able to throw your textbook or stapler or something at him it can cause a distraction, allowing you a chance to react, and survive,” said Cantrell. “If someone is throwing a book at me, I'm covering my face, not shooting.”

In school shootings, 98 percent of the time the shooter is inside, so simply making it outside can ensure survival, Cantrell said in the case of evacuation.

He told the students even for a trained shooter, it's harder to hit a moving target.

“I know you all love your textbooks but feel free to use it to cover yourself as  you evacuate,” he said. “I promise you won't get detention for damaging school property in a school shooting.

“ALICE is common sense, just not common knowledge,” Cantrell said.

He stressed the importance of detailed, real-time information.

“Law enforcement really likes directions, know which way is north and which is south. If you are able to call 911, being able to say “there's a male shooter that came in the door on the west side of the building” is a lot more valuable than “I think someone has a gun.”

Cantrell said the response plan has evolved in recent years, but violent intruder drills make as much sense as tornado or fire drills.

“In the past, they taught students to just hide under a desk or table, the same thing you do in a tornado drill,” said Cantrell. “Why would we respond the same way to a tornado as we do to a man with a gun?”

The students listened as Cantrell explained the value of having a plan, and practical knowledge, in the face of an emergency. In a crisis people fall back on their training, he explained.

“Don't wait until someone comes in to start making a plan. The gunman has a plan, you should too,” Cantrell said, reminding students time is not on their side in the case of an armed intruder.

Cantrell stressed the value of quick reactions, saying this is not the time to discuss a course of action with other students or the shooter.

“They've brought a gun into a school, they've made up their mind. So know what you can do, and do what it takes,” Cantrell said.

The skills taught in the ALICE training have value outside the scope of a school shooting.

“Do shootings happen at movie theaters or shopping malls? Yes. These skills will help you in those situations,” he said.

“Remember, there are no guarantees in a violent intruder event but the better prepared you are the better your chances of survival,” Cantrell said.

“We take our student safety very seriously and we hope that this training is another way to help prepare our students and staff for situations that might arise. It is something we hope we never have to utilize, just like fire drills and other drills that we practice, but we feel it is important to be prepared,” said Pryor Public School Superintendent Don Raleigh.

The training was scheduled for seventh- and eighth-grade Wednesday and Thursday and high school Friday.

 

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