Preparing for the worst
Police provide active shooter training for school staff
No one wants to hear that their school or their child’s school is on lockdown for any reason, let alone for an active shooter on the premises. Unfortunately, said Shelton police Lt. Robert Kozlowsky, in 2016, preparing school staff and students of some ages for situations like this has become a part of the country’s culture.
Kozlowsky said after he and four other city employees earned their certification to teach how to respond in an active shooter situation, it was time to train staff inside the local schools. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Shelton Police Department will have introduced four schools in Shelton to the ALICE training program. Shelton is the first city within Connecticut to introduce this active shooter safety training program.
Shelton police have held training at Long Hill Elementary, Booth Hill Elementary, Elizabeth Shelton and Sunnyside Elementary Schools.
ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. The acronym is a description of what Kozlowsky called “common sense” practices for an active shooter situation.
“There’s no real secret behind the information we’re sharing,” said Kozlowsky. “It’s leading people to be more aware and proactive. It’s not about any secret tools or techniques, but just using all of the tools around you and knowing more safety principles.”
The training program calls for staff to alert the building that there is an active shooter situation in progress, undergo lockdown procedures or quickly assemble barricades, and continuously update staff with information on the shooter, such as physical appearance or location.
Shelton’s school supervisor of security, Ben Trabka, one of five city officials who received their training certification, said before ALICE, Shelton schools would merely have gone into lockdown during an active shooter situation.
“A lot of staff members have said they felt like lambs as they were instructed to gather and huddle with their students in the corner of the classroom during their lockdown procedures. They were right to feel that way,” said Trabka.
When students and staff gather in the corner of a room they have made it easier for an armed intruder to harm or kill anyone caught inside. Kozlowsky said if an armed shooter were to enter a classroom through a barricade that was created, everyone inside should “counter” the attack by making a lot of noise and throwing objects at the assailant.
“At that point, your counter-attack is really doing whatever you have to do to survive. There are statistics that show those rooms who use barricades in school shootings have decreased the numbers of fatalities. Those who do nothing are more likely to be killed,” said Kozlowsky.
If an actual active shooter situation were to take place, Kozlowsky said, it would be important for staff to all be on the same page and to attempt to evacuate only if they felt comfortable. Attempting to evacuate a group of high school students is completely different from doing so with a group of first graders and certain precautions should be taken, according to Kozlowsky.
During a recent training demonstration at Elizabeth Shelton School, Principal Beverly Belden was instructed to do a live walk-through with her staff to help grasp some of the safety techniques shared by police.
Learning to quickly barricade rooms, not unlock doors even when colleagues are knocking, and utilize an emergency group chat on cell phones proved to be important parts in adding to the school’s overall safety during an active shooter situation.
Belden said the experience was emotionally draining for her, but overall she was proud to see how her staff performed and she feels more safe after seeing the training concluded.
Trabka said there was a debate as to how the training program should be introduced to the school’s individual staffs. Kozlowski said that ultimately, the city has decided to introduce the training program to the staffs at all Shelton schools, but how a staff relays the information to students will vary by age.
“Unfortunately, we live in a time where this information could be the difference between life and death for people,” said Kozlowsky. “At the lower grades you’re just getting kids anxious for something that will probably never happen. You can prepare a kid in two minutes to get him help build a barricade or help you move a desk. Younger kids don’t need to have this plan in their mind; it will do more bad for them than good.”
Kozlowsky suggested that high school and intermediate school staff alert kids that in an active shooter situation they could be expected to help build a barricade to secure their classroom.
Although a barricade might not stop an armed intruder, the extra time it would take the person to get inside a classroom could save lives, according to Trabka. He added that it is currently illegal for a teacher to carry a firearm in Connecticut, so the extra preparation is important.
The city plans to conduct the training at city hall in the future as well.
For more information on ALICE, visit https://www.alicetraining.com.
Take a sneak peek at the Shelton Police ALICE demonstration at Elizabeth Shelton below.