Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Is ALICE a #gamification of school safety?

I've been searching for something that has bothered me for the last two weeks.  And that's ALICE training for school safety, which has become a training option for many Iowa schools.  I first heard of ALICE when my husband came home from a school safety conference, and was very positive about it.  Some individuals I've talked to said it's empowering as adults because it gives them options for control.  As a hunter, I am not anti-gun, but I don't know if I want to go through this simulation, even if it is voluntary.  The very thought triggers anxiety in the pit of my stomach.

It doesn't take much to find stories on trainings that support the PRO viewpoint.  NPR, the Gazette, Cinncinnati, and the University of Iowa all have ready links with a quick search

It's not that I oppose training for emergencies.  Really.  We have fire drills, tornado drills, bus evacuation drills, bomb evacuation drills and schedules for everything from lunch duty to pep bus sponsors.  I like the idea of some of what ALICE is advocating.

  • Alert Everyone
  • Lockdown Your Room
  • Inform People in the Building
  • Counter by Attacking the Intruder<--this is some of what I have trouble with
  • Escape if Possible
ALICE even makes that claim that is it DHS-approved on some of the sites I found.  So I looked it up. And I found that indeed, the Department of Homeland Security does publish an a document on dealing with many of the things listed above.  In its pamphlet an Active Shooter in a Building  it says, as a very last resort, throw something at the intruder.

It also says:

Components of Training Exercises 
The most effective way to train your staff to respond to an active shooter situation is to 
conduct mock active shooter training exercises. Local law enforcement is an excellent 
resource in designing training exercises. 
• Recognizing the sound of gunshots  
• Reacting quickly when gunshots are heard and/or when a shooting is witnessed:
- Evacuating the area
- Hiding out 
- Acting against the shooter as a last resort
• Calling 911
• Reacting when law enforcement arrives
• Adopting the survival mind set during times of crisis

Perhaps my problem is how the training is conducted.  In all the videos I have searched on you tube, I see people running through a school building shooting guns and pretending to be intruders while others are present.  Talking to other educators around the state has led me to believe that intruders in these Iowa trianings are also equipped with pellet guns to fire at participants.

To me, it's surreal.  It's #gamification, like a round of Halo or a game of paintball, rather than a real life-or-death situation.  I was taught that guns were not used in the manner below.

Here's my point.

I support fire drills---but I've never had a flamethrower wielded at me as I walked out of the building.

I support tornado drills--but I've never had someone throw broken glass at me to simulate a twister.

I support fire arms training--and Iowa has an excellent Hunter Safety program.  But why would you subject individuals to an exercise like this in ways that could trigger anxiety attacks, PTSD, asthma attacks, or, worst of all, a superiority complex that leads them to believe it is all just a game?  We already know that teens and children react differently than adults on decision-making, and yet we are perhaps putting them in the cross-hairs of a dangerous make-believe.

Perhaps I am overreacting.  

  • As a parent, I know schools have a responsibility to protect kids/
  • As a teacher, I am wary of liability.  I also don't want simulations that are quite this realistic. 
  • As an administrator, I'm sure there are staff members who won't participate, so there must be reasonable alternatives.  
  • And as a board member, I'd think that we would want to have research for the liability and policy considerations that this type of program simulation entails.

Anyone have a better solution for a terrible problem?

I'm still searching for the research out there that tells me how this has been effectively used in schools or other places to thwart intruders, and perhaps that research is out there.  But it didn't seem to work at Ft. Hood when you had trained service people.  It didn't seem to work when instructions similar to ALICE http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Aurora_shooting#Shooting  Here's what I have found:

http://t.co/16fuQxwNmo (Parents have a responsibility to ask about what their kids should do) via @Paul_Mugan


If you have a link to contribute that designates safety information that you think might be helpful, please let me know.  I would love to see the board policies and ideas that are behind such weighty decisions.

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