CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Some in law enforcement who believe hiding from an armed intruder may not be enough have begun providing training on what else people can do.
And the program is proving popular among school, hospital, and business administrators.
It is called “ALICE” — an acronym for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and escape. It advocates an approach that includes locating a threat, scattering and at times throwing objects to distract a potential shooter.
By midyear, an estimated 500 to 600 people in law enforcement, teaching and other businesses in Iowa will have taken the training.
After the 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, many schools adopted a lockdown system that trains students and teachers to stay in a classroom with doors locked until police arrive. The ALICE program teaches that waiting isn't always enough.
About 35 people in Cedar Rapids took part in a two-day training program this week that included acting out scenarios in an empty office building.
Shawn Slezak, an ALICE instructor with the Story County Sheriff's Office, said the typical “lockdown” response to an armed intruder ignores the problem of response time. It typically takes an officer at least three to five minutes to arrive. Most school or mass shootings end in just one to two minutes, he said.
In an exercise that had participants stay in rooms while a volunteer stalked the halls, firing soft pistol training projectiles, nearly everyone was shot.
Susie Poulton, an Iowa City school administrator, said the problem with the lockdown response was apparent.
“You cower and wait for the attacker to come in. But if you have other options, like countering or evading, it just felt much better,” she said.
When participants regrouped for another round, Slezak told them to use evasion or distraction techniques. When the “shooter” tried again, people poked their heads out of doors, located the threat and scattered. Others threw tennis balls as a distraction.
Slezak said a trained law enforcement volunteer playing the shooter was confused enough to buy time for at least some of the potential victims to escape.
“He knew your tactics, he's a trained professional with a weapon and at seven yards, he still missed,” Slezak said.
Carol Meade of St. Luke's Hospital said the ALICE course gave her a new perspective on how average people can do more than hide and wait for help.
“I think we need to learn we can do something. Fighting back, not everybody is willing or able to fight back. But we need to figure out what we can do to empower people to do something and get out safely,” she said.
A number of participants said their school or organization was considering shifting away from the lockdown response to a more aggressive tactic to buy time until police can arrive. They saw the ALICE method as an option.
Linn County Emergency Management director Mike Goldberg said the response indicated a real need. Once notice about the training was posted, every spot was taken in just four hours.
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant paid for the training.
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