The Pryor Times

Local News

June 14, 2014

Prepared for intrusion

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

It’s a question Pryor Police Department’s school resource officer Jeremy Cantrell has asked time and again as part of his ALICE training.

ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Rvacuate and is a new, proactive approach to violent intruders.

Cantrell has taken the training to every school in the Pryor School District, educating both students and teachers. He’s conducted trainings for other law enforcement officers at several county facilities. Now, he’s taking it to the streets and arming the community with skills that could save their lives if they are caught in an intruder situation.

“ALICE is common sense, just not common knowledge,” said Cantrell at the first of two training sessions Thursday. “This training goes beyond just doing a lockdown. It answers the question of what to do if the bad guy is in the room with you.”

Cantrell said the violent intruder, not always a gunman, is in an unstable condition.

Their motive is to kill and they have a plan to do it. They know they likely won’t live through the experience so they have nothing to lose and they know time is not on their side,” said Cantrell. “If they have a plan, you should too.”

Cantrell said it is crucial to have training and a plan in place, because in high stress situations people are more apt to fall back on their training.

Lockdown, Cantrell said, is waiting and hoping for the best, whereas studies have shown a more proactive approach means less casualties.

“If a gunman walks in a room, how is lying on the ground and being quiet going to help you? People lined up by the blackboard or along the wall are stationary targets, making it easier for an attacker,” said Cantrell.

One proactive step people can make is to stress the aggressor.

“It’s natural instinct when something is coming at your face, to turn your head. So when an intruder enters your room, throw anything you can get your hands on them to disorient them and buy you a few seconds,” said Cantrell.

Locking a door is great, he said, but barricading it is better.

Cantrell, a 12-year law enforcement veteran, said to take inventory of the surroundings, know what is around to throw, know how to escape, or what could be used to break a window.

“Create a barricade and become a harder target. It’s hard to shoot if you’re trying to climb over stuff,” said Cantrell. “And keep in mind that the corner of a window smashes much easier than hitting the center.

He said not to count on anyone else to handle the situation.

Law enforcement’s average response time in past violent intruder situations is five to six minutes, he said. In the Columbine School Shooting, 900 rounds were fired in 15 minutes. Typically, the gunfire has stopped before the police can arrive.

Cantrell conducted two drills with the group, the first following standard lockdown procedures used in most schools and businesses. When shots rang, out the group turned off the light and tried to hide behind the few pieces of furniture. The gunman, Detective Chuck Ward who assisted with the drill, walked straight in the room and fired off a few more shots.

In all the hustle no one made an escape plan, no one even shut the door.

Everyone in the training said they assumed someone else had shut the door and that their lockdown training just taught them to hide quietly in the dark. For the second round, Cantrell armed each person with a tennis ball, to represent any object they could find in their office to throw. This time when the gunman shot his way down the hallway everyone was ready. The second he burst through the door he was peppered with tennis balls, causing him to duck his head and cease fire.

It was unanimous, the group preferred the second option of feeling empowered and less like a sitting duck.

The drill served another purpose, Cantrell said.

“Most people have no idea how loud a gunshot is first hand, they don’t know what it looks like or what it smells like. They have no real-life experience to factor in to their decision making,” said Cantrell. “And people always think they will recognize gun shots when they hear them. But we hear time and again when shots are fired on the opposite end of the building witnesses often say they just thought it was construction workers, so they didn’t think twice.”

“ALICE utilizes your three natural responses: fight, flight or freeze. Fight translates to counter strategies, flight is evacuation and freeze is lockdown and there is a time and place for each,” said Cantrell.

Cantrell stressed that these situations are not just in schools.

Emphasizing the common sense aspect of ALICE, Cantrell said to keep in mind where information and alerts come from.

“Most places use a PA system for announcements and lockdown alerts. PA systems are usually run by the person at the front desk, who is also the first person the intruder comes across. Have a plan for if something happens to that person,” said Cantrell.

He said to keep in mind that law enforcement responding to the situation will not know the building as well as you.

“We don’t know where so-and-so’s office is, we do know where the northeast corner is. So be sure to provide dispatchers real-time information they can use. Tell us what you see and what you hear,” said Cantrell.

He said to notice little details, like if a door opens in or out and if it can be barricaded.

“Do what you need to do to make sure things do not go as they plan. Violent intruders are not in a great frame of mind, take advantage of that and throw them off. Scream, throw things, run, do whatever it takes to disorient them,” said Cantrell.

Cantrell ended the course by saying he genuinely hoped it was information no one would ever have to use.

 

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