Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Cindy Glasson
Reporter Photographer 

Would you know what to do?

ALICE training prepares for an active shooter situation


Cindy Glasson

Deb Gerharter and Stacia Linton take down a "suspect" during ALICE training at the Hot Springs County Museum.

Living in small-town America, we often say, "It can't happen here," but the truth is, an active shooter situation can happen anywhere at any time.

Dozens of people in Thermopolis are now better prepared after taking Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate (ALICE) training, a Homeland Security training program.

The training was created after the Columbine shooting by Greg Crain, who shows the traditional passive response is inadequate – do nothing, you die.

Instructors for the classes were Russell Clark, a retired Army veteran who is also an instructor in weapons of mass destruction, and Marty Roark, an 18-year veteran with the fire service and a five-year member of the police force, both in Alabama.

Initially, your thoughts go to our little home town, wondering why in the world you would need, much less use, this type of training.

However, do you take vacations? Do you visit highly populated areas? ALICE training can be used anywhere you go, not just in your business, home or school.

Getting out of the situation is always the first choice, but barring that, ALICE can help you make the safest choice for yourself and loved ones.

So how many mass shootings are really going on?

Mass shootings are classified as any shooting incident that involves four or more fatalities. With that in mind, statistics show there are 20 mass shootings per year, with one occurring every 2.9 months.

Most are over within 10-15 minutes, making ALICE training imperative if you want to make it to minute 16.

These situations happen most often in businesses, 40 percent, where a disgruntled employee snaps. Schools follow with 29 percent of mass shootings, outdoors the rate is 19 percent and just 12 percent happen in other areas such as homes, hospitals and government facilities.

Many will remember the initial lockdown procedures taught for years where the response to an intruder was to crawl under a desk. This response was started in California schools during the height of drive-by shootings.

Those involved in the ALICE training were told to do the traditional lockdown protocol – hiding under the tables – while one of the trainers walked into the room, shooting everyone under the tables with a Nerf gun.

After the scenario was over, 13 of the trainees were dead. One had been wounded. Powerless, helpless, vulnerable and angry were the words they used to describe how they felt being trapped under the table with no way to escape.

So what do we do?

After years of studying alternate techniques based on mass shooting incidents, ALICE was born.

The steps with ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) do not need to be done in any particular order, and each incident is going to be different.

Alert – the purpose is to inform as many people as possible within the danger zone that a potentially life threatening situation exists.

Many companies use "secret codes" to let their employees know there is a potential threat in the building, but those codes aren't always the best choice. Does everyone employed know the codes? Do visitors know what they mean?

The key with Alert is to speak plainly as to what the threat is, where it is and continue to divest information as much as possible. Everything should be a conveyance of information rather than a command.

If the information includes the location of the intruder, a physical description and even the number of weapons involved, it can change the way the intruder reacts.

Lockdown – Relying on lockdown alone will significantly endanger occupants, so instead, ALICE encourages not only locking doors, but also barricading doors.

Barricading will keep the aggressor out of your safe zone or room and will at the very least, slow him down, giving first responders time to get to the scene. Do not open the door until a uniformed officer requests you to.

Also keep in mind, with regard to uniforms, many are available online, including badges, so it is wise to dial 9-1-1 and make sure the officer outside your room looking for entrance is actually a legitimate officer.

Silence your phones, remain quiet and turn off lights once your door is secured.

Look around you right now and think about what could be used as a barricade. It is better to think well ahead of a situation than to try to think clearly during a panic situation.

Inform – Inform is a continuation of Alert. It is critical to continue to provide information to police, staff and others in the building. This will help with a quicker and more efficient police response.

Remember to be flexible, too, since situations can change in an instant.

Whatever you do, do not expose yourself to the threat in order to pass along information.

Counter – Counter is about survival. It is the last barrier between a shooter and a potential victim and anything you can do to gain control is acceptable as opposed to being a sitting duck.

Create noise, move and distract. Keep in mind most shooters are not highly skilled, so any kind of distraction will make the shooter less likely to hit a target.

Throw things at him, scream and holler, but most of all, distance yourself from the intruder.

How do we know this works?

It is a simple concept known as the O.O.D.A. Loop – observe, orient, decide and act. It was first used in Viet Nam to help pilots focus in stressful situations. If they could remain calm under stress, they were more effective.

The key with an intruder is to "reset" his O.O.D.A Loop. If you can distract him, he loses focus and those seconds he needs to regain his composure could mean the difference between life and death.

Evacuate – Getting out is the most important thing you can do.

Take note of the nearest exit in any facility you visit, whether it be your office or a hotel. Be aware of your surroundings.

Even if others in your group don't agree with leaving, it is your best opportunity for survival. Leave everything behind and when you exit the building remember to keep your hands up at all times.

Its best not to make any quick movements toward police officers as they are tense and you do not want to be misidentified as a combatant. Always follow their instructions to get to a safe area.

If you find yourself exiting a building and there are no responders around, get to safety as quickly as possible and notify police via cellphone where you are.

It is important for companies or businesses to practice active shooter evacuations the same way they practice fire evacuations.

ALICE training was brought to Thermopolis through Hot Springs County Emergency Management and the Office of Homeland Security.


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