By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
Devastating scenes from across the country reveal the importance of planning for threatening emergency events.
Situations from Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University, Normal High School and others have heightened the awareness of the best process to reduce the number of victims in potentially deadly incidents.
The Clinton School District is changing its approach to dealing with these situations, including those involving an active shooter or other massive disorder, by using a system called ALICE.
School Resource Officer Cpl. Pat Cullen said the new system will encourage students and staff to take an approach unlike the lockdown system currently in place that could potentially leave students and staff locked in classrooms for hours.
“You guys read the newspapers around the country, it is not enough,” Cullen said.
Using the new system students and staff will be trained to exit the building if they are not in what Cullen called “the hot zone,” the area where the shooter is.
The first step of the system is to alert using clear and concise language to convey the type of event and location. Students and staff will also be encouraged to use 911 in the case of emergency events.
“Years ago they didn’t want anyone to use 911. You know what, we want students and staff to use 911. We want them to tell us exactly what’s going on in that building,” Cullen said. “That’s a huge change.”
Lockdown will still be used as a part of the system, but will not be the only line of defense staff and students are trained to follow.
“Years past, it's been ‘hunker down and wait’ and that's too dangerous,” Cullen said.
The third step is to inform and keep accurate and constant information coming.
Students and staff will also be trained to counter whatever threat they may be facing using the resources in the classrooms.
“We want to give the skills to our staff to use things in the classroom to distract bad guys from getting in or breaking in to the classroom,” Cullen said. “Books, backpacks, whatever they have to distract enough to get everyone out of that room.”
The final step is evacuation, which will also involve training staff to use their resources to keep an intruder out of a classroom, identify items that can be used for first aid and finally, how to escape once the intruder(s) is no longer a threat in the area they are in.
Cullen said while the previous approach was to have students wait until they are all accounted for or to have lockdown in effect with no evacuation, now the message will be to get out and go when it’s possible.
“The biggest thing across the country that has happened is that people have gone to a classroom with a gun and students have sat there and died in their chairs. We don’t want that to happen,” he said.
All school district staff will be trained on the ALICE system on Sept. 24.