ALICE Training Prepares Schools for Active Shooter Events

One of the nation’s first active shooter response programs for schools was born when Greg Cane asked his wife Lisa, a grade school principal, a simple question about the school’s preparedness for  an active shooter event:

“What are y’all doing while the police are making their way to the school?”

Lisa said that she would make an announcement on the PA prompting teachers and students to get into their classrooms, turn out the lights, and wait for law enforcement to arrive.

Crane, then a Dallas area police officer, didn’t like her answer, and began working to develop a program that would help civilians help themselves while they waited for police to respond to an active shooter event at their school.

What is ALICE Training?

ALICE is a nationally-recognized program for schools and universities that trains staff and in some cases, students, to respond to an active shooter event. The acronym stands for Alert, Lock-down, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. ALICE is unique because it offers proactive options that are outside of the traditional “lock-down only” approach. The program focuses on actively countering the threat as it is happening.

ALICE’s philosophy to: “participate in your own survival while leading others to safety” has appealed to many schools around the country. Presently, 1,600 K-12 schools and 400 universities have participated in ALICE training. It is the leading active shooter response training in the United States.

However, it does have critics. Several schools have put staff through training and then subsequently put their programs on hold. Some teachers feel that ALICE training is too frightening for younger grades and special needs students. It’s up to each individual school district to weigh the pros and cons and work with local law enforcement on how best to prepare for the worst.

secure school door and entryway


How does ALICE Training work?

The certification program includes on-site train-the-trainer training for a select group or individual. After training, the group or individual must pass an assessment to become an ALICE Certified Instructor. Instructors can then provide training for the rest of the staff who will test to become ALICE Certified Citizens. When a minimum required number of full-time employees has successfully passed the testing, the school earns its ALICE Certified Organization status.

Local law enforcement officers are also able to train school staff in their community and ALICE offers e-learning classes to supplement on-site training.

A Critical Window of Time

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the average school shooting lasts 12.5 minutes.Tragically,  lives can be lost during the short window of time between when a school shooting begins and the local police can respond. In September of 2013, the FBI published a report that stated that active shooter incidents in educational facilities account for some of the highest casualty counts.

And a report from the US Department of Justice (Criminal Victimization in the United States, March 2010) revealed that: “The national law enforcement response time to aggravated assaults is 20.9% of time within 5 minutes; 32.6% of time between 6-10 minutes; and 36.4% of time more than 11 minutes.”

ALICE trains staff and students to band together against the shooter as a possible option while waiting for police. Other options include, but are not limited to, working together to barricade the door, throwing heavy objects at the shooter (some ALICE-trained schools have stocked billiard balls and soup cans in their classrooms to use as projectiles against an active shooter), or running from the building.
ALICE stresses that Alert, Lock-down, Inform, Counter and Evacuate are not meant to be sequential nor are they a checklist to follow. Each situation is unique, and those involved rarely have all of the information needed to make flawless decisions. These are simply meant to be options to consider instead of blindly following a lock-down approach.


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