Your heart is racing. Shots have been fired, and there is the anticipation of what might happen next.
What will you do if there is a report of an active shooter on campus?
On Oct. 20, Nickolis Castillo, South Plains College’s Chief of Police, hosted an ALICE training for faculty and staff at the Reese Center campus in Lubbock.
The ALICE Training Institute is an online and in-class training program that allows students and faculty to make an option-based response to an active shooter on campus. ALICE is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.
Unlike other techniques for protection, such as the common duck and cover, ALICE is not a sequential method. Its goal is to empower each person to make a decision and do what is best for them, depending on the situation.
“When we take our own survival into our own hands, as long as we are acting and doing something, that’s not the worst thing,” said Chief Castillo. “Those are the people who survive.”
According to Chief Castillo, duck and cover has been taught so often that during the Virginia Tech shooting, people who practiced duck and cover died. Those in the other class rooms where people evacuated or locked the room down survived.
During the recent training, Chief Castillo had the faculty practice duck and cover during an active shooter scenario to show how ineffective the method is.
“I was actually starting to get scared,” said Kristina Keyton, associate professor of psychology at SPC. “I felt myself tear up. I was scared sitting on the floor thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I am next.”
During the scenario, which lasted no longer than 30 seconds, the majority of the participants were shot. According to Chief Castillo, if there was an entire SWAT team outside the doors when the practice began, the team would not have made it in time to save the victims.
The ALICE training stressed the importance of having many tools in your “tool kit,” such as how to barricade a door, how to evacuate, and how to effectively counter attack a shooter.
Using a red rubber gun and a Nerf gun, Chief Castillo put the participants through six different scenarios, each one encouraging the participants to try different precautions when reacting to an active shooter so that he or she may “train out” bad habits and learn what works best for them.
“I felt like with every single one we practiced, I reacted faster and better, and I felt more comfortable reacting knowing what I should do,” said Keyton.
During the training, participants learned many new tools for how to survive an active shooter, while minimizing the need to use fine motor skills.
One way to take down a shooter is to swarm him or her. ALICE teaches the limb-to-body method, with each person taking a limb and attaching it to their body mass to restrain the shooter. This method proved effective after four faculty members were able to restrain a fellow faculty member who was acting as the assailant. Once the shooter is restrained, it is best to secure the weapon. Chief Castillo advises that putting a trash can over the gun, placing a foot on it, pushing the gun away, or even surrounding it can help detain the gun.
ALICE also teaches the importance of multiple-level defenses. For example, if there is an active shooter, and students and faculty decide to lock down a room, it is crucial to make sure the barricade has multiple levels. Whether it is a desk, some chairs, a white board, shelves, and even a belt, having a multiple-level barricade is important, according to Chief Castillo. If a classroom does decide to lock down, it needs to be aware that they could be in that classroom for a while, so provisions such as water, food, and a first aid kit are necessary.
If the shooter pushes through the barricade, the next step in ALICE is to counter attack.
According to Chief Castillo, everyone has an OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop, which is the decision cycle. When a shooter is caught off guard by an object being thrown, it throws off their OODA loop.
When a faculty member threw a small bouncy ball at Chief Castillo, he said, “that tiny little movement [to dodge the ball], is paramount to your success. That little movement disrupts me enough for people to act.”
If there is an active shooter on campus, and a student or faculty member decides not to become locked down in a room, ALICE advises to evacuate. Evacuation can be scary, and Chief Castillo advises that if anyone chooses to evacuate, he or she needs to remember to bring counter measures.
According to Chief Castillo, in a previous session of active shooter training, another faculty member chose to bring a trash can just in case they ran into the shooter.
Chief Castillo said, “when we talk about evacuate, everyone always says, “leave everything here, don’t take anything with you.” That’s great for “let’s not look for items and gather our personal belongings,” but if you are taking a counter measure, even if it’s a bottle or a phone to get ready to distract with, grab it, let’s go.”
The ALICE training program expresses the need to have many tools or strategies for surviving an active shooter. According to Chief Castillo, the best way to protect students is to give them knowledge about ALICE.
On Nov. 7, Chief Castillo will offer the same ALICE training for all SPC students in the Sundown Room from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Student Center on the Levelland campus. It is highly recommended that all students attend the training, but it is not mandatory.
Anyone who has questions about the ALICE training program, or questions about when the next training will be, can contact Chief Castillo in his office inside the Student Center, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.