ALICE: A different response to active shooters

by Billy Bass – Horizon News Editor, Publicity Manager

Shootings are a common concern today, and the strategy for the lives of 21st-century students has always been to lock the door and hide when alerted of a threat. The same has been true at Hesston College until this school year, when students, faculty, and staff in a well-attended Friday forum were told to change the strategy and even counter an aggressive attack if needed.

The new protocol is called ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.

This isn’t a simple step-chart system, but rather a menu of options to select from should you find yourself in an emergency situation that could cause harm to the lives of yourself and others on campus. Hesston emergency personnel took student through the protocol Sept. 16 during the “Emergency Preparedness” forum. 

Auburn University Active Shooter Response Training video depicts the "Counter" option, where students try to distract a shooter by yelling and throwing things. (YouTube)
Auburn University Active Shooter Response Training video depicts the “Counter” option, where students try to distract a shooter by yelling and throwing things. (YouTube)

“You need options,” said Sgt. Chris Carter of the Hesston Police. “For years we’ve just been telling you to lock down and hope. That’s the mindset we’re trying to change.”

Carter notes that “it’s a collaborative effort” whenever a situation such as a shooting is in action. Without your participation and cooperation with law enforcement, the outcome of an event can differ by many degrees.

During this forum session, students watched a video demonstration of the ALICE procedures produced by Auburn (Ala.) University. It depicted active shooter scenarios and used the steps of ALICE to demonstrate possible action you could take. One scenario where a student was shot at close range while leaving a classroom prompted gasps from the pews. Actors in the video, following the “Counter” step, threw their books and bodies at the attacker, taking him to the ground. 

This is a step we students haven’t practiced during our lock-down drills. Those drills, said Dean of Students Juli Winter, were created to respond to external threats and don’t actually help the campus prepare for the reality of a dangerous person entering the classroom.

“Lockdown is often not the best option when there’s an internal threat,” she said. “We have to give students other options to minimize harm.”

Those options include doing anything you can do to distract the intruder, Winter says. “Yelling, screaming, throwing something or taking them down.” But only after all other options have been exhausted.

“Countering is the last resort, and only when you come face to face with the intruder.”

Sgt. Carter emphasized the importance of the first step: Alert. It begins by noticing those on campus who don’t seem to belong and not second-guessing your decision.  

“This is your community, and you know what normal behavior is on campus,” he said. “It’s never a burden to call 911.”

Russ Buller with Hesston Fire and EMS agreed.

In the case of an ill person, “don’t be afraid to engage if someone doesn’t look well,” he said. “They’re trying not to make a scene, and they’re trying not to be recognized as a situation.”

He added, “Never be afraid to engage 911 if you need more assistance.”

In regard to fire, he says to report it, no matter how small.

In the end, Buller and Carter said, it’s all about anticipating emergencies. 

“As a police officer, we’re scared a lot,” Carter said. “We’re human. But we counter that by being prepared.”

Hesston College has a crisis team which meets monthly to discuss campus safety and security. Members of the crisis team are:

  •        Jim Mason, Dir. of Campus Facilites
  •        Deb Hiebert, Facilities Administrative Asst.
  •        Russ Buller, Hesston Fire and EMS
  •        Doug Schroeder, Hesston Chief of Police
  •        Rob Ramseyer, VP of Student Development/Athl. Dir./ Title IX Coord.
  •        Mark Landes, Dir. of Aux. Svcs.
  •        Rachel McMaster, Dir. of Marketing and Communications
  •        Brenda Wenger, Student Development Administrative Asst.
  •        Jasmine Stutzman, Hesston Mennonite Church Administrator 
  •        Juli Winter, Dean of Students

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