Safety part of Moffat County School District back to school training
August 23, 2018
CRAIG — Student safety was top of mind this week.
Officers from the Craig Police Department provided new teacher training and a refresher course this week, including drills to empower them with tools to mitigate harm when confronted by violent threats.
"There is no such thing as 100-percent prevention," said Investigator Norm Rimmer.
Rimmer, a certified ALICE trainer, taught the course and volunteered himself as the target during simulated drills.
ALICE is a mnemonic aid to recall the steps in addressing a threat. Those steps, according to the Alice Training Institute, are:
• Alert — Overcome denial; recognize the signs of danger, and receive notifications about the danger from others.
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• Lockdown — If evacuation is not a safe option, barricade entry points into the room in an effort to create a semi-secure starting point.
• Inform — Communicate the violent intruder's location and direction in real time.
• Counter — Create noise, movement, distance, and distraction with the intent of reducing the shooter's ability to shoot accurately.
• Evacuate — When it is safe to do so, relocate from the danger zone.
The response protocol was developed by former law enforcement officer Greg Crane after the April 20, 1999, massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton.
More than 1 million people are trained in all 50 states and 4,200 school districts, including Moffat County School District and Colorado Northwestern Community College.
Lessons learned the hard way
The first documented school shooting in the United States occurred in 1764, when Delaware Indians invaded a school, Rimmer said. They scalped and shot schoolmaster Enoch Brown and several of his students. Nine children were killed.
It wasn't until after the Columbine shootings, however, that schools and law enforcement adopted specific protocols to respond to violent threats.
Before then, "law enforcement made mistakes," Rimmer said. "Patrol officers didn't have the training and equipment to go in and address such threats. That was left to SWAT."
He explained that SWAT teams need time to deploy — time that allows shooters to claim victims. Now, all officers are trained for active killer/active shooter response.
"We are coming, and we are coming into the school to stop the threat," Rimmer said during new teacher training, adding that history shows a high number of school shooters — more than 70 percent — commit suicide when they encounter armed resistance.
First line of defense
The response of shooters to armed resistance has lead communities to ask — should educators be armed inside the school?
Ultimately, that decision, for Moffat County's public schools, rests with the board of education said School Resource Officer Ryan Fritz, who, along with new SRO Nathan Businger, assisted with the training.
"You are going to be held to the same law that law enforcement is held. … You will be a murder suspect," Fritz said, adding that "the police are coming. If you have a gun, you may become a suspect or target of law enforcement. Don't engage police with a weapon in hand."
ALICE training does not rely on the ability to use a gun or fight to thwart or frustrate the efforts of a person or persons intent on violence.
According to Crane, his was the first training program in the country to provide an "option-based response" instead of the previously used lockdown procedures, requiring students and teachers to shelter in place.
"We are finding more and more — especially with recent shootings — success stories coming out where evacuation with counter-measures were used to stop the incident or keep more people from being shot," Rimmer said. "Talk to them; talk at them, redirect them, take advantage of their fragile state," he said, adding that no one expects teachers to be heroes.
"Each person must make their own decision about countering. This can change over time," he said.
And, while intervening is a personal choice, everyone should feel empowered to alert others of potential threats.
"If you see something, say something. If you see weird activity by students, teachers, staff, say something," Rimmer said.
ALICE training is one piece of a larger coordinated effort to keep kids in the community safe, some of which is not publicly shared to avoid tipping off potential perpetrators.
"Don't ever have the mentality that it will not happen here," Fritz said. "Let's prepare like it will, and be pleasantly surprised when it doesn't."
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.