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A.L.I.C.E. training

Published: Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 10:25 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 10:33 a.m. CDT
A group of A.L.I.C.E. participants blockade a door after hearing an alert over the group's walkie-talkie. Masks were required for safety reasons. From left are: Brian Damewood, Greater Regional Medical Center; Brian Burkhalter, Union County Sheriff's office; Eric Shawler, Creston Police Department; Jo Duckworth, Union County Emergency Management Coordinator; and Shane Haffner, Greater Regional Medical Center.

The shooter was outside in the hallway. A small group of men and women were in a classroom. After hearing an urgent voice over the walkie-talkie explaining where the shooter was, the men and women took chairs and bookshelves to barricade the door, then stood back against the wall to wait.

Suddenly, there was a pounding on the door as the shooter tried shoving his way in. He pushed against the door and the barricade, but what seemed like an eternity only lasted about a minute and he gave up and continued on.

He shot five people, killing two. Soon after, the shooter committed suicide.

This was one role-playing scenario in which a group of law enforcement, hospital employees and education staff participated in conjunction with A.L.I.C.E. training. The training was held at Lincoln School in Creston.


“A.L.I.C.E. is an acronym that stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, with strategies, philosophies and concepts on how we can increase the survivability of the people around us,” said Lt. Chad Cunningham, of University of Akron (Ohio) Police Department. “And that’s what we’re all about. That’s what this training is all about: to increase survivability when that attacker comes in.”

Cunningham led the two-day training. The training was held at Lincoln School, with permission from the library board, and Southwestern Community College in the Instructional Center.

“It was through a (Department of) Homeland Security grant program,” said Jo Duckworth, Union County Emergency Management coordinator. “Part of those grant dollars were set up for statewide training.”

In the training session, there was law enforcement from the cities of Creston, North Liberty, Red Oak, Glenwood and Harlan and Union, Adams, Guthrie, Adair, Tama and Ida counties. School staff from Mills County, the cities of Glenwood and Creston and Southwestern Community College were present. Staff members of Greater Regional Medical Center and Stuart Rescue also participated. Cass, Union and Mills counties Emergency Management Agencies were also in attendance.

A.L.I.C.E. training program was designed by Response Options, a critical incident response training company that specializes in active shooter and violent intruder events.

Practical options

The training session consisted of several different scenarios. Each scenario had a shooter going from classroom to classroom in Lincoln School. The participants were split into groups and had to follow the directions given to them by Cunningham.

The first scenario was each group lock the door and sit in a corner.

“(That’s) what kids are doing now,” said Cunningham. “They’re locking the door, they’re hiding in the corner. They can’t do anything. They just sit there. And they (the participants) found ... that it didn’t feel good, they didn’t like that.”

Each scenario following the first progressed by adding strategies.

“Lockdown’s a good starting point, but we need to enhance it. Not by locking, but by barricading ... and then we allowed evacuation,” Cunningham said, “whether it’s from an open area like a gymnasium. ... Can you lock this gymnasium down? Can you lock the cafeteria down? Can you lock the center of a mall down?”

In the final scenario, Cunningham had the participants use all strategies to survive. At the end of each scenario, the participants discussed what happened and how they felt as adults in those situations. At the end of the training session, they met in the Lincoln gymnasium.

“From the first scenario to the last scenario, did you like enhancement or do you want to go back to the first scenario?” Cunningham asked of the participants.

The general consensus was yes, they preferred enhancement.

Study session

After the practical training session, the participants met at Southwestern Community College for more education on getting community support and school liability.

“They just absolutely partner with us seamlessly. ... They really do a good job to accomodate us,” said Duckworth of SWCC lending a classroom for the education section.

During the first day of the training session, Cunningham took the participants through a class overview.

“We do PowerPoint, we do scenarios, ... we learn from past items that’s happened ... past shootings and how can we learn from these concepts? We go over the A.L.I.C.E. concept, (too),” said Cunningham.

By learning about different strategies, schools and places of work can improve their attacker policies, and, in turn, are able to defend these policies better.

“Looking at one strategy isn’t enough,” Cunningham said. “You have to have multiple strategies and options.”

After the class, the participants must present an assigned part of the course to Cunningham. They will then be certified to be instructors to teach the A.L.I.C.E. philosophies in the community.

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