High Stu­dents Prac­tice Ac­tive Shooter Cri­sis

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kut­ter

FARM­ING­TON — Teach­ers have been taught ways to deal with an ac­tive shooter cri­sis and now this train­ing is be­ing ex­tended to stu­dents.

Farm­ing­ton High School was one of the first schools in the area to con­duct a school-wide ex­er­cise with its stu­dents Thurs­day us­ing a pro­gram called A.L.I.C.E. or Alert, Lock­down, In­form, Counter and Evac­u­ate.

Prin­ci­pal Jon Pu­ri­foy said the school will have sim­i­lar drills each se­mes­ter so stu­dents will know what to do if any­thing ever hap­pens at their build­ing.

The ex­er­cise started with a pre­sen­ta­tion on ALICE in the per­form­ing arts cen­ter for all stu­dents 10th-12th grades and then stu­dents left for their classes, know­ing that a per­son act­ing as an ac­tive shooter would be walk­ing the halls. No guns were in­volved and the intruder did not try to get into any rooms.

Lt. Chad Par­rish with Farm­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment and John Luther, di­rec­tor of the county’s emer­gency man­age­ment of­fice, led the pre­sen­ta­tion.

Par­rish said he be­gan look­ing for a pro­gram to help stu­dents af­ter par­tic­i­pat­ing in a ca­reer day at the high school. The school’s pol­icy at the time was to lock the class­room door, turn out the lights and hide. Par­rish said he re­al­ized one stu­dent was ac­tu­ally scared of the sit­u­a­tion.

“I went back to my chief and said we have to do some­thing,” Par­rish said.

Af­ter some re­search, the de­part­ment de­cided to use the ALICE strat­egy and Par­rish, Luther and Chief Brian Hub­bard at­tended a train­ing ses­sion. About five years ago, Par­rish and oth­ers be­gan train­ing Farm­ing­ton teach­ers about the pro­gram.

“Teach­ers are trained but the prob­lem is what if there is a sub­sti­tute teacher,” Par­rish said. “We need to train you guys. You’ve been watch­ing the news. This stuff scares me and I don’t get scared.”

Un­der ALICE, teach­ers and stu­dents are to alert 911 as soon as pos­si­ble about an ac­tive shooter on cam­pus.

Par­rish said on the av­er­age it takes law en­force­ment about four min­utes to re­spond to an emer­gency. From statis­tics on school shoot­ings, it shows that an av­er­age of four peo­ple are dy­ing per minute. The ob­jec­tive is to de­crease re­sponse time and pre­vent stu­dents from dy­ing or at least re­duce the num­ber of deaths.

Af­ter an ac­tive shooter alert has been ac­ti­vated, the next step may be to lock down the room. This in­cludes bar­ri­cad­ing the door with chairs, desks or ta­bles and us­ing cords, belts or other items to tie off the door so it can’t be opened.

If an intruder gets into the room, stu­dents are to counter the sus­pect in any way pos­si­ble. A video showed stu­dents throw­ing books and sta­plers at the intruder.

“We’re say­ing if it hap­pens in a room, it may be hard for every­one to get out,” Luther told stu­dents. “Do what­ever you can to sur­vive.”

A shooter’s nat­u­ral re­ac­tion to things be­ing thrown is to duck and re­act. This will in­ter­rupt the shooter and give stu­dents time to es­cape or time to even tackle the shooter. Luther em­pha­sized that if any­one takes away the sus­pect’s gun, put the gun away. No one should be hold­ing a gun when po­lice ar­rive, Luther said.

In ALICE, “E” stands for evac­u­ate but the of­fi­cers were quick to point out evac­u­ate may be a stu­dent’s first and best choice to sur­vive a shooter. If the shooter is in an­other part of the build­ing, stu­dents may be able to es­cape out of a win­dow or run down the hall­way to the clos­est exit.

“Get out. There’s noth­ing wrong with get­ting out,” Luther said.

An im­por­tant part of how ALICE works is pro­vid­ing real-time in­for­ma­tion to stu­dents. This is what stu­dents prac­ticed dur­ing the next part of the ex­er­cise. Stu­dents left for their classes and went into locked rooms. Pu­ri­foy an­nounced the ex­er­cise was be­gin­ning and an ac­tive shooter was in the build­ing.

School per­son­nel in the of­fice watched cam­era mon­i­tors and as they saw the ac­tive shooter walk­ing the hall­ways, this in­for­ma­tion was an­nounced to all classes. In­side the class­rooms, stu­dents dis­cussed what they would do in each cir­cum­stance, based on the in­for­ma­tion they were re­ceiv­ing about the shooter’s where­abouts. No ac­tual ac­tion was taken.

Af­ter­ward, Pu­ri­foy said the ex­er­cise will be dis­cussed and changes made to make it bet­ter the next time. One com­ment he heard from many teach­ers was that they were not able to hear the an­nouncer in their rooms. Staff also re­al­ized they need to ad­just the an­gle of some of the cam­eras in the hall­ways.

“That’s why we’re do­ing this, to see what we can do bet­ter next time,” Pu­ri­foy said.

Two se­niors who par­tic­i­pated in the ex­er­cise had not heard of the ALICE strat­egy but said teach­ers have talked to them about what to do if an ac­tive shooter was in the build­ing.

Pe­dro Eng­land said he thought the ex­er­cise was a good idea.

“This is the first as­sem­bly we’ve had over an ac­tive shooter sit­u­a­tion. I feel like a lot of stu­dents had a lot of ques­tions and it calmed every­one in know­ing what to do,” Eng­land said.

He said the intruder walked by his sec­ond floor class­room sev­eral times and the class had de­cided if the shooter walked to an­other part of the build­ing, they were go­ing to run down the hall, down­stairs and out­side the exit door on the south­west end of the build­ing.

Ma­cie Young said it helped hav­ing a de­scrip­tion of the sus­pect and know­ing where he was. She said she feels safe at Farm­ing­ton High.

“I think we have a good sys­tem here,” Young said.

Luther com­mended Farm­ing­ton High and Farm­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment for be­ing proac­tive in pre­par­ing stu­dents for a pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion with an ac­tive shooter.

Prairie Grove and Lin­coln po­lice de­part­ments and school dis­tricts also use ALICE as their strat­egy for deal­ing with an ac­tive shooter cri­sis.

LYNN KUT­TER EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

Jay Harper, Farm­ing­ton High School dean of stu­dents, and As­sis­tant Prin­ci­pal Clay­ton Wil­liams watch mon­i­tors to see where an “ac­tive shooter” is in the school. This was used to give in­for­ma­tion to stu­dents and teach­ers in their rooms and was part of an ex­er­cise Thurs­day morn­ing con­ducted by Farm­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment and other law en­force­ment of­fi­cials.

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