Empower your kids to stay safe from school violence

“What would my son or daughter do in that situation?” The news of school shootings and other violence is hard to escape these days. Along with it comes the cruel reality that the same thing could happen to anyone’s child. It’s a scary thought.

This reality hit me hard after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. At the time, my son was a five-year-old kindergartener. I watched the coverage in disbelief and kept thinking this could have been his classroom. Would he have known what to do? Would his teacher? Would anyone? That was the point when I decided that it was my job to teach my four children how to be safe in the event of a violent intruder.

But how could I, a mom from small-town Wyoming, even know where to start?

I quickly turned my attention to Google. I poured my energy into finding what I thought was the best way to protect my kids. I wasn’t solely focused on the type of violent event they could encounter. Kids can get hurt by someone with a gun or knife, by a stranger driving a windowless van – or in any other scary scenario we can only imagine. What was important was learning how to respond. That’s when I found A.L.I.C.E.

A.L.I.C.E. is a training curriculum that was developed shortly after the Columbine massacre in 1999 by a police officer and his wife, who was a school principal at the time. Their goal was to develop strategies children could use in the event of an active shooter. But what they found was that those strategies could be useful for victims of any age, during any type of violent event.

According to the ALICE Training Institute, A.L.I.C.E. is an easy-to-remember acronym that teaches different strategies people can use in the event of a violent intruder:

  • A – Alert
    • Be alert to your surroundings.
    • Trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t ignore it.
    • If you hear a strange sound or see something that seems off, investigate it.
  • L – Lockdown
    • If you cannot escape a violent intruder, lock down and barricade your area.
    • Barricading is crucial. Don’t just sit against a wall or under a desk waiting for a violent intruder to enter the room.
    • Make it harder for the violent intruder to get to you.
    • Don’t wait to be attacked. Be proactive.
  • I – Inform
    • Tell people what is going on.
    • Call law enforcement, post on social media, make an announcement on a PA system.
    • Communicate with everyone.
    • Spread the word any way you can.
  • C – Counter
    • If left with no choice, defend yourself.
    • Defending yourself could mean throwing things at a violent intruder, creating a distraction, moving around or even engaging in physical contact.
    • Do whatever it takes to survive.
    • Fight for your life – because it might be your last chance.
  • E – Evacuate
    • Get out!
    • The best response is always to remove yourself from the threat.
    • If you can’t evacuate, try the lockdown and counter strategies.

These strategies can be employed in any order, and at any time. Data show that taking a proactive response to these incidents – when people realize they have options and can help themselves – can increase survival rates substantially.

As for me? I just wanted to make my children a little safer. It’s not necessarily anyone else’s job to teach them what to do in these situations. In fact, there are many places that still tell victims to crawl under desks or tables and wait to be rescued. Yet, the data show that violent intruder events are commonly over before law enforcement arrives at the scene. So I wanted to empower my kids, let them know they can take action to increase their chances of survival.

I strongly believe in giving people options in these situations. So I became a certified A.L.I.C.E. trainer in 2015. I have trained hundreds of people throughout Wyoming who work in government agencies and businesses, as well as kids. And every time there is a violent intruder event on the news, I reinforce the A.L.I.C.E. strategies with my own kids at home and practice drills with them.

I recently hosted an A.L.I.C.E. training event for Magellan Healthcare of Wyoming’s MY LIFE (Magellan Youth Leaders Inspiring Future Empowerment) program, attracting more than 60 students, parents and others from across the state. At the beginning of the discussion, I asked the group, by raise of hands, how many thought they would survive a violent intruder event. Roughly five people raised their hands. At the end of the class, I asked the group the same question, and every single person raised their hand.

A.L.I.C.E. training has evolved into offering its curriculum to nearly 12,000 law enforcement agencies, K-12 schools, healthcare facilities, higher learning institutions, businesses, governments, houses of worship and numerous other entities across the country. A.L.I.C.E. is about saving lives. My goal is to share these strategies with as many people as I can. Just like I wanted to prepare my kids, I believe that all of us can do a lot to save ourselves and each other. To learn more, visit https://www.alicetraining.com.

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