While learning how to respond to a school shooter may seem frightening, Farmington Hills Police officers got a few laughs during a December 3 ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) training.
Officers Mark Mostek and Brett Putman and Sgt. Michael Flatt, and Lt. James Neufeld from the Farmington Hills Fire Department, spoke with more than 50 Farmington Public Schools (FPS) parents at the Maxfield Education Center in Farmington.
ALICE has been introduced to city employees in Farmington and Farmington Hills, to local houses of worship, child care facilities, and even some local businesses.
”The big thing is everyone can pick up one or two things and take it home and use it to prepare ourselves for the worst day of our lives,” Putman said.
In Farmington Schools, Mostek said, all staff members – from administrators to part-time cafeteria workers – have been trained. ”Everybody’s going to be on the same page when this comes into one of your schools.”
Alert. Lockdown. Inform. Counter. Evacuate.
ALICE was developed through studying the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado and other mass shootings before and since that time, officers explained. They walked through each of the steps, which don’t have to be completed in sequence:
Alert – Use plain language to let people know what’s happening and where.
Lockdown – Barricade doors, using anything and everything in the room. Look for “out of the box” escape routes, such as breaking through drywall to get to another room. Position yourself in an area out of the shooter’s line of sight, often near the door.
Inform – Call 911, pass along real-time information. Locally, Farmington Hills Police Department can tap into video cameras at the district’s middle schools and high schools.
Counter – Mostek said this step is not about fighting, but “taking back control… empowering yourself.” Interrupt the process of shooting, with noise, movement, anything to keep the shooter off balance. Typically, after one person rushes in, others pile on to help.
Evacuate – Leave belongings behind and move, as fast you can and as far as you can. Jon Manier, FPS Director of Instructional Support Services, said students are told to go “as far away as you have to go to feel safe. We’ll find you.”
People who are injured will need help getting out, Neufeld said. “When the killing has stopped, you have to stop the dying. You have to be ready, as well, to jump in with First Aid.”
Not all of the ALICE steps are taught to every FPS student, Manier said. “We wouldn’t teach a kindergartener to counter. We focus on evacuation, we talk about not hiding, barricading doors, listening to the adult in the room… We focus on multiple ways we get out of the room.”
Manier said Counter is taught to older students, as “the very last thing in the toolbox.” He said the district does not practice live gunfire drills.
Erin Lietz, a Farmington Hills resident with a 5-year-old in the district, said she attended the event to learn more about ALICE.
”I was interested in getting the training for myself, because being prepared is important,” she said. “I was also interested in talking about how it is implemented in our schools in a developmentally appropriate way.”
Lietz said she already talks to her child about safety and appreciated the opportunity to connect with a School Resource Officer in attendance.
“This is a new program for our district, and I look forward to working on implementation. I think everyone in the district wants what’s best for our kids,” she said.
Manier acknowledged the “very delicate balance between creating fear and anxiety and creating preparedness.” He directed parents to resource materials and videos on the district’s website.
”You have to have this plan in mind,” Neufeld said. “You don’t have to be paranoid, but you should always be on your game.”