School safety presentation discusses ALICE program

Taylor Scalise and Krista Vandyke

Last fall, all BPSD staff were trained on how to respond to an active threat in the school, and on January 29, BPSD presented this information to parents and students at a meeting at IMS.

This year, Bethel Park implemented a new system called ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. The program promotes giving students and staff options in the event of an emergency such as running out of the building, or possibly distracting the intruder.

This method definitely strays away from the classic idea of locking the doors, turning off the lights, and hiding in a corner.

The presentation shared an alarming fact that while trained police officers miss about 70% of shots, armed school shooters almost always hit their targets. The difference between police officers and intruders is that most police officers are shooting at moving targets, while students are instructed to sit on the floor and stay silent if an intruder is in the building.

ALICE also encourages barricading doors because locks can be broken, and even if the barricade is small, it still may be enough to slow an intruder down or disrupt their ability to shoot accurately.

The Alert and Inform steps in the system promote absolute communication at all times during a situation. For example, if a teacher sees a threat in the hall, it is more practical for them to announce it through the PA system immediately than to call the office first and have the principal announce it.

Additionally, ALICE encourages announcing the location of a threat inside the school instead of leaving students and staff in the dark. This will allow teachers to make informed choices instead of simply guessing what to do.

Evacuation is believed to be the best option for survival in a situation with an active shooter. The presentation stated that only 2% of violent intruder events have been by more than one person, which leads to the idea that they cannot be everywhere in the school at once.

As training for students begins, they will be taught reunification points to gather at after exiting the building.

Washington Elementary School Principal, Fred Pearson, said, “It’s okay to run on your own. You don’t have to wait for a teacher. You don’t have to wait for an adult.”

Students have become so accustomed to always waiting for others through fire drills, and they need to know that they are encouraged to do whatever it takes to get to safety.

The most precarious of the ALICE steps is Counter. When thinking of the word counter, most would think physical combat with the threat, but this is absolutely not the only option. Countering can be done by students of all ages, such as simply screaming or moving around to distract and ensue panic in the intruder. If students feel that they can takedown the intruder, they are able to swarm the attacker, try to seize the weapon, or throw books at them. When counter drills were practiced with teachers, most attackers were taken down within a minute and a half.

ALICE is not always meant to be followed sequentially, but the steps are absolutely able to save many lives. For example, during the Columbine High School Massacre, a student asked about two minutes into a 911 call if they were able to flee from the building, and the response was no. Two minutes later, the attacker entered the room they were in. Had these students been able to evacuate, lives could have been saved, and that is the thought process of the ALICE program.

With the advancements of school security such as cameras, staff and police officers are able to know where an intruder is at all times. This could possibly even allow communication with an attacker during a situation if necessary. The doors being locked at all times is a step in the right direction at BPHS, and hopefully ALICE will be able to provide safety and confidence to all students and faculty in the case of an emergency at school.

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