Proactive response to shooter threats urged in new plan

NEW ULM — During Thursday’s District 88 School Board work session, School Resource Officer Mike Brehmer gave a presentation on a crisis training program called ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate).

The ALICE training provides preparation and a plan for individuals and organizations on how to proactively handle the threat of an aggressive intruder or active shooter event.

Following the tragedies at Columbine and Sandy Hook, schools began operating differently to meet this new type of crisis. Brehmer said initially students were trained to act passively during an active shooter event. The lockdown procedures initiated by many schools have more in common with sever weather drill, with student hiding in rooms under their desks. The lockdown procedure was modeled after a Los Angeles school district policy for response to a drive-by shooting. Brehmer said this model was not appropriate for an active shooter threat.

A drive-by shooting is a short-term threat in which immediate cover was needed, but it does not work for a sustained attack in a school. The ALICE training is designed to help students and staff evaluate how to act in a crisis.

Brehmer said the first option is to evacuate the building if possible. Brehmer said the best way to keep safe is remove yourself from the danger. In an emergency, a ground floor window could be broken and used as an escape route.

If the location of a threat is unknown, students and staff may need to stay locked down in a room. Staff has been instructed on how to secure and barricade a door based on what is available.

Camera systems installed at the high school will allow staff and police to monitor a building during a crisis. If possible, office staff will be able to use the intercom to notify people of the threat’s location.

As a last resort, staff has been trained on how to overwhelm a shooter’s ability to act or create distractions.

“We don’t want them to be passive victims,” Brehmer said.

“I think it is the right thing to do, we’re on the right track,” Superintendent Jeff Bertrang said.

Going forward, the district will need to work on developing a location site for relocation in the event of an evacuation. Options for the high school include Martin Luther College (MLC), Washington Elementary or the Civic Center.

As of January, school administration, teaching staff, office staff, school nurses and custodians have been trained in ALICE. The para-professionals and food service staff will be trained during future workshop days.

“Hopefully, our students will never be involved in such an event, but I’d rather have our staff and students over-trained than underprepared,” Brehmer said.

The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19 in the District Boardroom at 414 S. Payne St. The next study session will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, in the District Conference Room.