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Spartan Spotlight: District in process of updating emergency management plan

The Somerset School District, in collaboration with the Somerset Police Department, is in the process of updating its District Emergency Management Plan to include the ALICE program. ALICE is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate and is designed to provide comprehensive preparedness in the event of an armed intruder. Our current armed intruder procedures involve staff locking their doors, moving the students to a part of the room where they cannot be seen, and quietly remaining there until an “all clear” announcement is given. ALICE offers a different philosophy in light of the rapid increase in deadly school violence events across the country. The ALICE philosophy is to use technology and information in a way so that staff and students can make informed decisions in a crisis while provided options based on human instinct and action to increase chances of survivability.

Currently, ALICE is used in more than 4500 schools, businesses, universities, hospitals, and government agencies across the globe. In addition, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, The International Association of Chiefs of Police, The NYPD, and the U.S. Department of Education have all endorsed ALICE and have clearly stated that schools now need to provide options for staff and students during a crisis that go beyond just lockdown.

The ALICE safety response is not linear and is designed to be used dynamically as needed:

-- ALERT: Use clear, concise, plain language to alert others to the danger

-- LOCKDOWN: Only if you cannot evacuate. Barricade the room to be a harder target.

-- INFORM: Communicate real-time information as to the location of the intruder

-- COUNTER: Make noise, movement, distance and distraction to interrupt the skill set needed to shoot accurately. Counter is NOT fighting and is a last resort.

-- EVACUATE: Get away from the danger if safe to do so.

Over the course of the next few months, the Somerset School District will be implementing ALICE in phases. We are currently in Phase 1 which includes training staff by providing them initial information about ALICE. Phase 2 will take place in June and consist of providing staff with realistic active shooter scenarios to allow them to put into practice their new skills and knowledge. Phase 3 will begin next fall as we introduce students to ALICE by providing developmentally appropriate classroom training in each building. Phase 4 will allow staff and students to practice the options provided by ALICE through age-appropriate drills in each building. Parents will be provided ample notice prior to Phase 3 and Phase 4 implementation so you have the opportunity to discuss the topic of school safety with your child ahead of time. We will also be holding parent informational meetings in the fall should you wish to learn more about ALICE. Those dates will be released this summer.

In closing, school safety continues to be a top priority in the Somerset School District. While the odds of an armed intruder event happening in Somerset are extremely low, the consequences are so severe that we have to plan as if it will happen tomorrow. Please do not hesitate to contact Shannon Donnelly, 715-247-4400 ext. 575,, with any questions about ALICE or the district’s Emergency Management Plan.