NORWALK – Local schools and agencies are staying proactive when it comes to campus and workplace incidents involving active shooters or violent intruders that are occurring with alarming frequency across the nation.
And what they’re learning is the important response strategy of getting out of harm’s way rather than just sheltering in place.
Two dozen representatives from area and out-of-town school districts and government agencies participated in a special certification training session recently hosted by the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District.
The two-day event at the district’s Huerta School campus featured table-top classroom instruction, best methods for training employees, research on active shooters and response scenarios using prop Nerf Blaster guns and replica pistols.
“The goal is awareness and preparation through empowering staff and students with strategies that will protect them wherever they may be,” said Elaine Williams, chief of the NLMUSD School Safety Department.
“We want to change the victim mindset of staff and prepare them with the tools to react to a violent intruder incident and what to do until law enforcement arrives.”
The June 26-27 session was presented by ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) Training Institute, an Ohio-based group that conducts instructor training workshops and certification from coast to coast for all types of organizations, which, in addition to school systems and colleges, includes hospitals, churches, businesses and governments.
The approach, according to Eric Spicer, a Pittsburgh area police officer who led the Norwalk session, is to teach pro-active tactics that call for option-based responses.
“It’s a natural reaction,” he said about the tendency for people to initially be confused or freeze up. “Our mission is to save lives. We’re preparing them to respond better to the situation at hand.”
Spicer said the focus is teaching participants better decision-making in high-stress situations. That means learning and practicing the evacuation procedures and survival maneuvers that state and federal guidelines now call for, not just the stationary “lock-down” strategies of hiding or sheltering in place.
The problem with stationery strategies is that they can create scenarios where those involved in violent events unwittingly become soft targets or “sitting ducks” for the intruders, he said.
Those attending the session included representatives from several local agencies, including the Azusa Unified School District, Fullerton School District, Loyola High School and Hermosa Beach Police Department. Attendees also came from Brawley in Imperial County and Tulare in the Central Valley. One participant came all the way from Atlanta. In addition to Chief Williams, the NLMUSD was represented by Chris Moton, the district’s director of student and family services.
Garry Creel, the Azusa USD director of child welfare and attendance, agreed that following a lock-down protocol is not enough anymore and believes that the protocols taught by ALICE are a common-sense approach. “It was very important for our district to learn new strategies to ensure our students and staff are safe,” he said.
The ALICE session was the first to be hosted by NLMUSD. Participants in the training are now required to take a follow-up online exam to attain their certification by ALICE.
The certification will allow the participants to serve as official trainers and implement training sessions for employees and others, including community members, in their jurisdictions or places of employment.