ALICE: new strategy unnerves


Olivia Summons , Editor-in-Chief

While students kicked back and relaxed over the summer, teachers prepared for the possibility of an emergency situation with ALICE. The acronym stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, and is the latest protocol and lockdown method in case of a crisis scenario.

English teacher Meekah Hopkins describes the training process as unnerving.

“The video explained the protocol for ALICE and walked us through different ‘live’ scenarios involving an active shooter or intruder in a school building,” Hopkins said. “The video made me feel scared, angry, disappointed in society, in what humans are capable of doing to each other.”
Science teacher Martin Stranathan reflects on a time prior to the discussion of “what if?” scenarios.

“There’s no comparison, we could walk outside and come in any door…it felt more like an open campus,” Stranathan said. “Now people feel more unsafe because they are constantly concerned, and that’s where I think the ALICE training is important, it gets you to think about what if.”

But according to senior Rob Meloni, ALICE surpasses previous method of protocol.

“The old method of duck and cover is not effective in protecting students,” Meloni said.“Educating students about how we can effectively protect ourselves in the worst possible scenario is.”

Meloni describes the first ALICE drill students participated in as surreal.

“Imagining such a horrid event occurring is intimidating and scary. But it was necessary,” Meloni said.

ALICE dictates that students in grades 8 through 12 should participate in the swarm technique. Swarming is characterized by grabbing the arms, body and legs of the assailant to immobilize.

But this method of counter-strategy has been met with student hesitation. According to junior Ariana Jackson, not all students might be willing to participate in the physical method of countering the assailant.

“With every person, it’s fight or flight. Some may be totally ready to destroy the assailant while some may be too scared to move,” Jackson said.

Sophomore Joelle Szumski echoes this reservation.

“No one can predict what students are going to do, so it’s not a fair expectation to have, but it’s certainly an option. Those that are would ‘swarm’ would be willing to risk their lives, essentially,” Szumski said.

When asked if the tactics expected of students in ALICE have any mental health repercussions, guidance counselor John Komosa emphasizes the need for sensitivity when discussing potential school shooting scenarios.

“It can be a trigger for some students with post-traumatic stress disorder or who are prone to anxiety. That is something we need to be sensitive about,” Komosa said.

While the changes introduced by ALICE evoke varied reactions from students, school resource officers Mary Burg and Michael Lynch share the reality behind the transition to ALICE.

“Most humans don’t like change. We had practiced what was commonly known as a ‘lockdown drill’ for many years,” Burg said. “Convincing everyone that [ALICE] is the best approach to an active assailant or shooter will take some time. Doing something is better than doing nothing.”

According to assistant principal Christopher Parker, released data fully supports the implementation of ALICE.

“Doing anything other than sitting quietly and hiding will give you a higher chance of survival in any given active assailant scenario,” Parker said.

According to Jackson, adopting ALICE secures a degree of safety previously absent from drill preparation scenarios.

“It’s a good step forward to helping students prepare, because you never know what may happen,” Jackson said.