Within three minutes and 36 seconds, an armed intruder breached a closed door and shot “dead” the dozen adults huddled in a corner of an elementary classroom.
When asked how they felt, the adults agreed at once: “Helpless.” “Scared.”
“What if these were real kids getting shot with bullets?” Michigan State Police Trooper Andrew Knapp of the Brighton post asked.
The room fell silent.
Antonio Castillo, an instructor with ALICE Training Institute, said that is the scenario that plays out nationwide in active shooter events because traditionally people have been taught to lock the door, turn out the lights, be quiet and hide.
Yet, that behavior leads to more casualties, he said, because in the average five minutes to six minutes it takes law enforcement to respond to an active shooter event, the shooter has already claimed his or her first victims.
In a two-day training hosted Aug. 14-15 by the Brighton post, dozens of adults representing private businesses, schools, local townships and law enforcement were taught proactive survival strategies for incidents involving a violent intruder or active shooter. The goal of the ALICE — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate — program, which took place at the shuttered Lindbom Elementary School on State Street in Brighton, is to provide individuals with survival-enhancing options for those critical moments in the gap between the start of a violent situation and when law enforcement arrives at the scene.
“It’s about empowering first responders in these events,” Castillo said.
Participants were given a historical perspective of active shooter events in the United States, such as the 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, and they were taught proactive strategies to increase survival rate.
The hands-on exercise portion began with a traditional lockdown, which left the participants with a clearer understanding of how helpless one feels when unable to do anything but wait.
With the shout, “Ready! Ready! Ready!” Castillo walked the participants through various scenarios that took them step by step through the strategies taught by ALICE.
In one, they could only use whatever equipment or material they could find in the classroom to board the door in an effort to keep out the shooter. In another scenario, they were given tools — including a wedge and cords — that could be kept in a classroom or office space and which could be used to enhance security at a closed door to keep an intruder out.
As a gunshot — fired from Knapp’s airsoft gun — rang out, the participants stacked the desks against the door and used the cords to secure it even further. The gunman was unable to break the barrier.
In another scenario, the adults were told they could use countermeasures to thwart the gunman, played by training participants using airsoft guns. Those countermeasures could include using a chair as a weapon in an attempt to disarm the intruder or escaping through a window.
In one classroom, when the gunshots were heard, the participants closed the door, boarded it with the desks and then simulated breaking out a window and running to safety. When the intruder breached the barrier, he found no one in the classroom.
More than expectedJoe Mauck, an information technology employee, said he came to the training expecting to “learn how to evacuate.”
“It’s so much more than that,” the Williamston man said. “It’s not only being able to evacuate but being able to counter” any threat.
Following the training, Mauck said he and his two coworkers who also attended will take what they learned to their employer, who currently does not have a game plan should a crisis such as an active shooter occur. He said he hopes to implement change at the IT company.
Castillo said the scenarios mimic real life. In a real incident, people will have to make a choice to lock down or evacuate depending on the situation, and in either situation, they need to know how to improve their chances of surviving.
“The most important piece is preparation,” Castillo said.
Preparation in a classroom can include little things that are easy to obtain, he said. For example, someone who is good with building things might make steps for elementary students to more easily be able to climb up and out a window or a local store or parent may donate cords to a classroom that can be used to hold a door more firmly closed.
Castillo said at one school he gave his presentation to, a teacher admitted that she keeps tampons in her classroom because she knows she can use them to plug a bullet wound.
“ALICE is not designed to be a program you follow in chronological order or linear,” he said. “It’s designed to give people involved in these situations the information to make the best decision to survive these events.
“If they can get out and evacuate, that’s what we encourage them to do,” Castillo added.