Active-shooter training: Local schools prepare for something they hope never comes

RANTOUL — One group climbed out a window. Others locked doors. Still others fled their rooms and escaped to safety.

The varied response was part of the action of teachers and staff at three Rantoul schools who went through active-shooter/intruder training last month conducted by Rantoul Police Department, while in January, students participated in ALICE training.

New Rantoul Police Chief Erman Blevins came away pleased by the response during the active-shooter training. (He hadn’t yet taken the chief’s position when the ALICE training took place.)

“Having just come here and being the new chief and observing my officers in action, I was impressed,” Blevins said. “And I was impressed with the schools, the teachers and how they reacted.”

The training showed how to react in the event a shooter or someone else who might pose a danger — perhaps an angry parent — were to enter a school.

Participating were Northview and Pleasant Acres elementary schools and J.W. Eater Junior High School.

Kevin Kaiser, school resource officer for Rantoul City Schools, was surprised that some of the adults were able to get out a classroom window.

“It’s like, ‘How did you get out that window?’” Kaiser said.

The training involved putting five to eight people in each room and then allowing them to respond appropriately when informed who the dangerous or potentially dangerous person was and where he or she was located in the building.

“Because it was training, we really didn’t want them to break a window (to get out),” RCS Superintendent Michelle Ramage said. “That’s why they crawled out.”

But if it were the real thing, breaking a window to exit is a real option.

The training involved going through scenarios in which a potentially dangerous person had entered the building and how to respond. As few as 12 and as many as 16 officers were in each school, depending on how many were on calls at the time during the training. Pro Ambulance personnel were also on scene.

Using the ALICE (ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate) protocol, staff were taught how to respond. Emergency personnel were alerted.

ALICE, which is used in many schools nationwide, calls for personnel to respond to an active shooter or dangerous person differently than they would have years ago.

“With ALICE, there’s alert, then inform, and so the first thing we say is, “This is an ALICE alert,’ and then give them info of what’s going on. It’s almost a play by play (as opposed) to the old days where you were very vague,” RCS Assistant Superintendent Mike Springer said.

Using previous methods, the alert might be in code and personnel didn’t really know what was going on. Under ALICE, staff are informed where the intruder is, what hallways and any other pertinent information needed.

“We want the intruder to know that everybody knows what’s going on. That’s disarming to them,” Springer said.

“Previously, you’d lock down and cower in the corner of the room, but if the threat of the intruder is on this side of the building and you’re on (another) side of the building, you don’t need to lock down and cower in the room. You need to get out of the building or take action.”

Kaiser said ALICE gives people more than one option of doing something as opposed to hiding beneath a table.

The hope is that all staff and students would reach a relocation site after leaving the building, and parents would arrive to pick up their children.

“The three words we like to focus on are ‘run, hide or fight,’” Kaiser said. “Run if you can, hide if you need to and then fight as a last resort. We don’t teach anybody hand-to-hand combat.

“Fight can mean a lot of different things. Fight might mean you break a window and crawl out, or it might mean there are four or five people who can do a swarm on somebody who can upset (the intruder’s) thinking.

“Lockdown is more than just locking a door. It might be grabbing a table and barricading a door.”

Blevins said the major purpose of the training is to have staff thinking ahead of time of what they would do, until police arrive, in the event such a scenario happens.

“Most school shootings are over within five-six minutes,” Blevins said, and the shooter takes his own life.

Kaiser said it’s unfortunate that such training is necessary.

Added Blevins, “In today’s world, we have to be trained and ready for it.”

dhinton@rantoulpress.com

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