The assistant principals from all three of Perry’s public schools addressed the Perry School Board at Monday’s monthly meeting about ALICE.
ALICE, or Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate is part of a system to help insure school safety.
Gary Czerniakoski from Perry Senior High, Carol Ryerson from Perry Middle School and Joel Martin from Perry Elementary spoke to the board about what they had learned while attending seminars on the matter Jan. 21-22 in Van Meter.
“We discovered that an ‘active shooter’ situation lasts, on average, from seven to eight minutes, but that the earliest arrival time for police can be up to five or six minutes after the shooting may have started,” Czerniakowski said. “And that is if someone remembers to call 911.”
“You may think that is obvious, but we role-played a scenario and everyone was so concerned about what they needed to do that they just assumed someone else had called 911, and after five or six minutes we realized no one had even called,” he added. “That is the first thing: alert the authorities.”
In the past schools have been focused almost entirely on lockdown, or securing the facility. Many times that creates a situation that becomes a “lock you in your room and wait to be shot” scenario. ALICE seeks to counter that.
“It is not a linear process — you do not do ‘A’ and then ‘B’ and so on,” Czerniakowski told the board. “Instead, the idea is you do a lot of different things as needed and have flexibility, because not all situations will be the same.”
- Alert: This would include alerting the authorities, as well as the entire building through the P.A. system.
- Lockdown: The idea behind lockdown is to create as much of a hindrance and delay for the shooter as possible. “Our doors open inward, so it would mean locking and barricading doors, but they staying clear,” Czerniakowski said. “Some rooms, like the science lab, have outside doors. If possible, you should immediately evacuate, and in some instances, if it means you have to break out a window to get away, do so.”
- Inform: The goal is provide real-time information in plain language. “We used to use a code, like saying ‘Teachers, please use your red folders’ but that idea has been rejected,” Czerniakowski said. “Now the idea is just to tell everyone immediately what is happening, and it may have the added benefit of confusing or misdirecting the shooter. We want to get the word out as soon as possible, including getting as much accurate information as we can to the public and to the media as quickly as possible.”
- Counter: The point of counter is to delay and distract the perpetrator. Examples would be barricading doors or creating distractions. “We found out that if a shooter breaks into room or a crowded hallway and people just stand there or turn to run they tend to be shot,” Czerniakowski said. “Obviously you want to get away if you can, but if you cannot, then throw a book or your phone or do something” so that you are not a passive target.
- Evacuate: If at all possible, the goal is to clear the building quickly. All those who flee are then to run quickly to a common “rally point” where headcounts can be taken. Even if different routes have to be taken, all should proceed to their designated spot. The High School and Middle School are to rally near Stokely Lumber in the East Perry Plaza, while the Elementary School would rally at the McCreary Community Building.
The board was informed that one of the goals of ALICE is to be pro-active, and to empower staff to make authoritative decisions.
Several different problems were addressed, including what to do with special needs students or those needing physical help, as well as how to react if the shooting were to begin in a common area or if kids are in the hallways and not classrooms. The differences in the reaction and ability of the different age groups was also discussed.
“You are not going to have elementary students be able to barricade a door effectively,” Czerniakowski said. “That is just one reason why each building will be developing their own plans. By the end of February we will have met with all teachers in the district, and then in March we can begin go over things with the students.”
Martin said Perry Elementary would approach ALICE two classrooms at a time.
“We will focus on drills they already know and make it like one of those and will, of course, practice it,” he explained. “We will also be sure we are using age appropriate language to help explain to the students why they will need to know this.”
The trio said that they intended to have practice drills once plans are in place and that at least once a year the entire district would have a full ALICE drill that would include proceeding to the various rally points.