High Students Practice Active Shooter Crisis
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.
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.