New Safety Training Empowers TK Staff

TK school resource officers Tony Stein and Jeff Nieuwenhuis will be training staff in a new practice called ALICE  - an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. While ALICE training continues the lockdown practice, it also gives teachers other options to consider what’s best for them and their students in different situations. Both Stein and Nieuwenhuis are retired Barry County Sheriff’s deputies and certified ALICE trainers.

“Basically several staff members came to us and asked about it,” said Nieuwenhuis. “They wanted ways to make their classrooms safer. Security has changed and we need to be able to instill in our staff the ability to think on their feet, assess the situation and make decisions of what’s best to keep themselves and their students safe.”

ALICE training will teach staff to be more aware of their surroundings, assess their own situation and make best choices to stay safe. The training is optional to all staff and is not being offered to students at this time.

 “Our main goal is to protect students first. It’s that simple,” said Stein.  He said nationally thousands of school districts have been updating to ALICE or some similar type of training.

As part of the ALICE training, the first thing it to help teachers recognize signs of danger or threats and be aware of their surroundings. The second part of the training is the lockdown procedure but taking it a step further and teaching students and staff how to barricade the doors, secure door handles and hinges and take shelter in the room.

 “An intruder is looking for the quickest and easiest way to get into a room,” said Stein. “If it’s locked or barricaded it’s going to take longer and the intruder is most likely going to move on.”

Not only does this action help deter an intruder from trying to access entry into a room, it also slows the person down, giving police more time to respond and act. Until a teacher or staff member knows specifically where the threat is at and can assess whether it is safer to remain in the classroom or evacuate the building, the goal is to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to enter and to stay out of sight of any intruder.

The “I” in ALICE stands for information. It’s about informing others of what is known as long as it is safe to do so and providing as many details as possible about where the threat is located, what the intruder looks like and the types of weapons involved.

“Counter” means taking an active role in defending yourself and others if the situation warrants.  Teachers are taught to use common classroom objects to try and stop or deter an intruder - a stapler, a yardstick, books - anything that could be thrown at an intruder to disrupt his actions. In some instances teachers may also choose to try and tackle the intruder to stop further action. Stein said counter measures are always a last resort though and should not be used unless the teacher is faced with imminent danger.

“We’re not telling teachers to go looking for the intruder and taking him out. Leave that to us and the police officers.  But if the intruder enters your room – we’re saying it’s OK to fight back and not just sit there huddled together in a corner.”

Stein and Nieuwenhuis said many staff may not feel comfortable using counter measures and that’s OK too. “This training gives people options on what they can do and teaches them how they can do it safely,” said Nieuwenhuis.

Finally, if it’s safe, staff will be taught the proper ways to evacuate a building.

“If you’re at one end of the school and you know the action is at the opposite end and you have a safe route for escape, we’re telling teachers it’s OK to get students out and away from the danger. Just get out,” said Nieuwenhuis.

Stein said it’s important to remember this is not a mandated training for TK staff, but something he hopes will help give some teachers more options and help them feel more comfortable. “It’s empowering our staff,” said Stein.

“When it comes to an emergency situation, you revert back to your training. If you don’t have any training, you don’t have anything to revert to and you don’t know what to do. We want to have the best options to protect all our students and staff,” said Stein. “God willing – we’ll never have to use this. But we would be silly to think something can’t happen here.”