ALICE training prepares for school shooting situations

Participants in ALICE training run away from an active shooter.

From Columbine to Sandy Hook, school shootings are unfortunately not an issue that seems to be going away any time soon. One specialized type of training, ALICE training, teaches anyone from an elementary school teacher to a police officer how to react if that situation were to come to their classroom and their town.

If you were around the Rural Health Education building on the Indian Hills campus Friday morning, you would have heard air horns sounding in quick repetition. For those participating in ALICE training Friday, the horn represented something much more dangerous -- a gun.

For the second day of ALICE training in Ottumwa, participants ran several scenarios back-to-back, with one person selected as the shooter and the others, victims trying to make it out alive.

"Police don't train to be victims, so it's difficult to just sit there in a lockdown, sit where they simulate an active shooter that simply walks in and walks up to you and you're unable to do anything," said Officer Aaron Vose of the Ottumwa Police Department. "It's extraordinarily hard for a police officer, but it's very enlightening in the sense that you cannot do anything, you just have to wait."

ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate -- and expands on the process where schools simply lock down and nothing more. Each consecutive drill added one element, like continuous information on the shooter's whereabouts or the ability to fight back.

"Doing anything is better than doing nothing, so the fact that that is being shown here as we do simulations and scenarios I guess isn't surprising to me," Officer Vose said. "Rather than just sitting there as you wait and actually doing something proactive and it be more effective... no, is not really surprising to me."

In one scenario, the participants were told a shooter would enter a class, when the shooting actually started from within the class, to see how they would react. Each scenario was then debriefed to see which variables resulted in the fewest fatalities.

"Typically what we see is administration or staff members will attend this training, they'll take that information back to their co-workers and various members of their boards and talk about what the program is and together, they'll make a decision about what they would like to implement, if they need more training, if they do want to do on-site training," said Josh Stevens, Coordinator of Wapello County Emergency Management. "Then [they] kind of roll it out, specific to their age group of kids or co-workers or what type of facility it is, so it's a very procedural matter in how they go about doing it, but each department usually goes back and basically has a round table and talks about what they learned."

Participants in the ALICE training included school principals, administrators, police officers and sheriff's deputities from several counties across Southeast Iowa.