Within the last decade, the increase of gun violence and school shootings targeted at America’s youth has made firearms the second leading cause of death among American children and adolescents, after car crashes. In fact, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, in 2019 alone there were at least 100 incidents of gunfire on school grounds resulting in 26 deaths, and 63 injuries. With this surge of school-related violence, many risk management education teams have had to reevaluate their response and prevention techniques.
Traditionally, when gun violence and school shootings were not as rampant, schools relied on lockdowns in the case of a gun-related emergency. However, school shootings are chaotic and dynamic, which means a fixed and limited response, such as a lockdown, shouldn’t be the only option. That’s why Greg Crane founded ALICE, an active shooter response training institute, designed to teach different methods to be used in the case of a school or workplace shooting.
A New Plan
The ALICE training and response protocol was created to give teachers and administrators options to choose from during an intense and dangerous situation. This training includes 5 overarching steps, however industry-specific nuances are included in the response protocol. Instead of relying only on the lockdown approach, ALICE gives these 5 steps to make an educated decision:
Alert- The first step in identifying a threat, alert teaches those involved how to recognize and receive notifications of a dangerous situation. According to the ALICE protocol, alert is the stage where those involved overcome denial and start to make survival decisions.
Lockdown- When evacuation isn’t possible, a lockdown involves barricading entry points to create a safe space. ALICE training helps to identify when a lockdown should be used, how to properly build a barricade, and how to use the time to prepare next steps.
Inform- Communicating during an emergency is a crucial part of any dangerous situation. Options for communicating during a shooting or threat of gun violence could include using a PA system to inform others of a shooter’s location or using cell phone, when appropriate, to communicate with the police.
Counter- As a last resort effort, counter involves creating a chaotic and unpredictable environment for the intruder. This means creating noise or actions that can cause distractions, making it more difficult to shoot accurately.
Evacuate- ALICE training teaches civilians how to evacuate safely and when to do so. This might include breaking a window or checking to see if a hallway or back entrance is safe and clear.
Risk management education teams have been giving prevention just as much attention as response during an active shooting. Here are a few ways risk management teams are implementing prevention techniques into their practices:
- Conduct an environmental scan- It’s important to understand your location, what’s around, and how to work together with your community. For example, if there’s a bank or hotel nearby, it’s important to have open communication channels, which will make sharing information easier in the event of an active shooter.
- Control entryways –Workplaces, and especially schools, should know who is coming in and out of the building, including students. This might mean having one main entrance for foot traffic, utilizing security guards or installing security cameras.
- Focus on education- Most importantly, schools need to educate their students on what behaviors to look out for in their peers. Communication lines should be open to report unusual behavior seen on social media or in personal conversations.
Despite the tremendous progress of risk management education teams, along with administrators and teachers, school shooting response and prevention protocols have a long way to go. Risk management can be a great resource to take advantage of, especially as more initiatives are being made to provide mental health services in schools and active shooter training for administrators.