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Cass Sheriff's Corner: Embracing and implementing active shooter training

Training is a major component of law enforcement and the delivery of public safety services and initiatives to our county and communities. We are constantly learning, training, researching, practicing methods and techniques, both hands on and cri...

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch
Tom Burch

Training is a major component of law enforcement and the delivery of public safety services and initiatives to our county and communities. We are constantly learning, training, researching, practicing methods and techniques, both hands on and critical thinking and planning to have the skills to respond to ever changing needs in law enforcement and public safety. Frequently, we embrace and implement strategies and concepts once they are proven and implement them into our daily operations. Generally, the public isn't aware of these concepts and strategies; however, in this article I would like to share some information on a very effective public safety tool that we have embraced and implemented and have had the opportunity to share in school districts, churches and business organizations throughout the county.

Over the years, our response to critical incidents has changed and evolved along with what is taught in school and workplace settings. We have implemented an approach that is being taught nationwide that has been very successful in a variety of situations. The training concept is called the ALICE Program.

The ALICE Training program was created out of a husband's desire for his wife to have a better plan in case of an active shooter event. Greg Crane was a law enforcement officer in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and after the Columbine High School shooting. Greg and a fellow officer set out to create a plan based on the strategies that brought them through some violent shooting situations. Through years of development, modifications, additions, deletions and a lot of input from other ALICE Training Instructors across the country, ALICE Training is the first program in the country to use option-based, proactive, survival strategies to prepare for active shooter events. Now, many governmental agencies, police/law enforcement organizations and associations have made recommendations which mirror ALICE Training concepts. The ALICE program vision is: "To empower all citizens with the skills and knowledge to respond when shots are fired. If the police cannot be there in time to help, the next best thing is to prepare our civilian population to help themselves until public safety arrives." ( www.alicetraining.com )

In 2016, we had a deputy trained and certified in the ALICE program. In 2017, we were given the opportunity by the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School District to send additional staff for the training that they hosted. We believe in the training concepts so strongly that we have developed them into our own training concepts and want to be able to share them with as many organizations as possible.

The ALICE program is simple using an easy to remember Acronym-ALICE.

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A-Alert. Alert is your first notification of danger. Alert is when you first become aware of a threat. The sooner you understand that you're in danger, the sooner you can save yourself. A speedy response is critical. Seconds count. Alert is overcoming denial, recognizing the signs of danger and receiving notifications about the danger from others. Alerts should be accepted, taken seriously and should help you make survival decisions based on your circumstances.

L-Lockdown. Barricade the room. Prepare to evacuate or counter, if needed. If evacuation is not a safe option, barricade entry points into your room in an effort to create a semi-secure starting point. Our training explains scenarios where lockdown may be the preferable option and dispels myths about passive, traditional "lockdown only" procedures that create readily identifiable targets and makes a shooter's mission easier.

I-Inform. Communicate the violent intruder's location and direction in real time. The purpose of inform is to continue to communicate information in as real time as possible, if it is safe to do so. Armed intruder situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly, which means that ongoing, real time information is key to making effective survival decisions. Information should always be clear, direct and in plain language, not using codes. Video surveillance, 911 calls and PA announcements are just a few of the channels that may be used by employees, safety officers and other personnel to inform others. An emergency response plan should have clear methods outlined for informing school employees, hospital workers or any other employees of the location of a violent intruder.

C-Counter. Create Noise, movement, distance and distraction with the intent of reducing the shooter's ability to shoot accurately. Counter is not fighting.

ALICE Training does not believe that actively confronting a violent intruder is the best method for ensuring the safety of those involved. Counter is a strategy of last resort. Counter focuses on actions that create noise, movement, distance and distraction with the intent of reducing the shooter's ability to shoot accurately. Creating a dynamic environment decreases the shooter's chance of hitting a target and can provide the precious seconds needed in order to evacuate

E-Evacuate. When safe to do so, remove yourself from the danger zone. ALICE provides techniques for safer and more strategic evacuations. Evacuating to a safe area takes people out of harm's way and hopefully prevents civilians from having to come into any contact with the shooter.

Our staff has helped educate, teach and implement these strategies in a variety of settings throughout the county. Training has gotten excellent feedback and the concepts taught have been well retained and rehearsed and implemented into daily operations of schools, businesses and churches. The delivery of public safety services success works hand-in-hand with our citizens that we serve and we want to share and collaborate with you on these services. If you feel that this training program can be helpful to our organization, please contact our office to visit about the opportunities that we can assist with.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: by email at tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us ; by phone at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; by mail or in person at the Cass County Sheriff's Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W, P.O. Box No. 1119, Walker, MN, 56484.

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