By Lori Wysong
Since the school shooting at Columbine in 1999, rising incidences of gun violence have caused many places of learning to prepare themselves for similar atrocities. Organizations such as the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) Training Institute have developed to help schools become less vulnerable to attacks.
Washington College held a number of ALICE trainings this summer, which were open to all faculty and staff.
Sarah Feyerherm, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said that “The ALICE training was recommended through the Emergency Operations Group (EOG), and Human Resources spearheaded the administration of it.”
The EOG assesses risks on campus in order to ensure that WC is prepared for emergency situations. Once their recommendation was made, Feyerherm said, many of the senior staff at WC endorsed it.
“I believe the EOG felt this training made the most sense to roll out on our campus. Because we had an officer trained as a trainer, it was essentially ‘free’ for us to roll out this training,” Feyerherm said.
That officer was Brett VanZant, a special police officer for public safety. VanZant first learned about the ALICE training program when WC hosted a course on campus to certify instructors with ALICE Training Institute in the summer of 2017.
“I think it is very important that everyone at the college have the ability to attend ALICE training to at least be prepared in case of an incident, as ALICE can be applied to almost all situations even off campus,” he said.
Some faculty members did not look forward to undergoing a training that was nearly eight hours long, and which involved such heavy subject matter. “I would say I was very reluctant to participate, but I definitely feel that the training was beneficial. We learned a lot of different ways we can proactively respond to a situation,” said Lindsay Lusby, assistant director of the Rose O’Neill Literary house.
Dr. Erin Anderson, associate professor and chair of the sociology department, believes that in order to be more effective, students should undergo some form of training as well.
“Were an active shooter to enter one of my classes, the students in the room would have to know how to respond if we are to have any hope of preventing tragedy. It also became apparent that staff might need training more specific to their work locations,” she said.
Brandon McFayden, director of public safety, hopes to provide training on some level to students in the future. While an all-day training may not be feasible for WC students, he said that he is searching for an effective video or other demonstration that would prepare students for an active shooter emergency.
“We would like to do a drill, but there are no details yet,” said Sue Golinski, associate director for public safety.
At the present time, however, the focus is on the faculty.
“I think it’s good for staff to take it because when you’re in a classroom, you’re going to look for the professor for guidance,” Golinski said.
There have been 23 trainings since the class of 2018 graduated, and over 300 WC staff and faculty have received ALICE training, according to VanZant.
VanZant believes that the trainings have gone well so far, and that ALICE has valuable lessons to teach.
“I think the most important thing that faculty can learn from the training is that they have options to responding to Violent Critical Incidents (VCI), such as ALICE,” he said.
According to the ALICE Training Institute website, the system has already been effective in at least one active shooter situation, which took place at a high school in Ohio in 2017.
“We have seen more and more K-12 schools using the ALICE training model, and the overall impression was that it would be a good model to help prepare our employees for such an incident, as rare as they are,” Feyerherm said.
This impression was not unanimous. Dr. Anderson said that because active shooters are most often people who have some previous connection to a school, the trainings might prepare potential perpetrators for the security measures they might encounter.
McFayden, however, believes that the most important thing is measures to be prepared.
“You pray that never happens, but it’s something you have to take proactive steps for,” he said, “You don’t want to wait until you have a situation and act afterward.”