In the spring of 1999, two high school students armed themselves with guns and explosives and stormed into their suburban Colorado high school and killed 13 people during a siege viewers around the country watched unfold on the news.
The Columbine High School shooting was the deadliest school shooting on record and the fifth-deadliest mass shooting in the United States since World War II.
Over the next several years, more locations would be added to that notorious list. Virginia Tech University. Sandy Hook Elementary. Chattanooga, TN. Charleston, SC. Las Vegas. Sutherland Springs, TX.
“One thing I would never have thought I would have to deal with when I was running for sheriff was how to deal with active shooters,” Cumberland County Sheriff Casey Cox told the Cumberland County Board of Education during its work session Saturday. “Today, we’re looking at churches and we’re looking at schools. Most of the people who commit these acts, they’re just evil people.”
Members of the sheriff’s department presented an abridged version of the ALICE civilian response to active shooter training the department has been offering across the county.
Captain Jerry Jackson said, “Every time we do this program, people ask if this is being taught in our schools.”
The typical school response to an active shooter situation is to lockdown the school, locking doors and hiding in classrooms and waiting for help to arrive. But that’s not always the best way, deputies said.
“It’s freeing up the thinking,” Jackson said. “If the threat’s outside, lockdown the school. If the threat is inside, get out of the school.”
Investigator Bo Kollros said the “passive” response of a lockdown was being replaced by a “proactive” response taught in the ALICE training.
The average active shooting incident lasts about 12 minutes and the average law enforcement response time is five to six minutes from when they are notified.
The time between the start of the incident and law enforcement arrival is “your time,” Kollros told those present.
“What you do in that time can be the difference between someone living and dying and whether you live or die.”
ALICE training is meant to help civilians think about the different responses they can use in an active shooter situation. The acronym stands for:
Alert — let people know what is going on; don’t use code words, but be clear about the danger.
Lockdown — Lock and barricade the door, close the blinds, and silence cell phones. Spread out inside the room and don’t leave yourself trapped. Remain calm and control breathing to help prevent giving away your location and to be prepared to act should the shooter enter the room.
Inform — Contact 911 as soon as safely possible and give as much accurate information as possible.
Counter — Look for items that could be used as weapons if the shooter enters the room, such as chairs or fire extinguishers, that can be used to interrupt the skills necessary to shoot accurately. Shouting, throwing objects, and moving can distract an untrained shooter. Fight dirty, he said, because you’re fighting for your life.
Evacuate — If a safe route is available to exit the building, use it. Leave personal property behind and don’t run in large groups or stay together. When you reach safety, notify law enforcement or authorities where you are and what is happening.
“Which tactic you use will depend on the situation,” Kollros said.
Kollros played a recording of the librarian at Columbine High School calling 911 during the shooting. Shots could be heard outside. She had students inside the library with her and she can be heard telling them to stay down.
“The teachers did everything they were trained to do. The dispatcher did what she was trained to do,” Kollros said.
But an image of the floor plan showed an exit that could have been used before the two shooters entered the library.
“Every student in that library could have gotten out, could have survived, but they were going with lockdown,” he said. “Lockdown by itself is not a bad thing, but it can’t be the only thing.”
All Cumberland County school principals have attended a brief session on the ALICE training, but it has not been fully implemented in trainings and drills for all school faculty, staff and students.
“We’re hoping we can get this taught in the schools instead of the hunker-down method,” Cox told the board.
As it was a work session, the board could not take action on the request.
Heather Mullinix | Crossville Chronicle