In the wake of last month’s mass shooting at a county health department event in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 people dead and another 22 wounded, the Champaign Health District decided to take a proactive approach toward possible active shooter encounters by organizing an ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training session on Thursday at the Champaign County Community Center on South U.S. Route 68.
County Health Commissioner Jeff Webb said he was approached by Mary Collier, the health district’s administrative assistant, who suggested having the training session.
Following Collier’s recommendation, Webb reached out to the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, which agreed to conduct the training session.
“It is important to our organization to keep our staff safe,” Webb said. “We do not expect that we will have an issue, but it is best to be prepared.”
The training session, attended by two dozen county and city of Urbana employees, was led by Chief Deputy Rick Jordan, who said the sheriff’s office has been providing ALICE training about two years.
“Sheriff (Matt) Melvin decided that ALICE was an effective way to aid our schools and businesses in the event of an active shooter,” Jordan said.
Through the free outreach program, Jordan said, the sheriff’s office has trained in the neighborhood of 2,000 citizens within the county through sessions held at local schools, businesses and churches.
“Active shooter events are major issues within this country, and it could happen anywhere,” Jordan said, noting three students were killed in 2012 during a school shooting in Chardon, Ohio, a city of just over 5,000 people. “With that being said, the sheriff’s office wants to provide the best training available to our community.”
A look into an ALICE training session
Jordan said the sheriff’s office offers two training programs – one for adults and one for kids.
“If it’s adults, they get a very raw, unedited version,” he said. “If it’s youth, then the training is adjusted to their level. Both adult and youth versions get a Powerpoint presentation with the option to participate in live scenarios.”
With only adults in attendance on Thursday, Jordan held nothing back.
“The goal at the sheriff’s office is to have participants come away from the training with a better awareness of a potential active shooter situation and what their response or actions should be in a very stressful event,” he said.
So what should people do if they suddenly find themselves in a situation involving an active shooter?
First and foremost, Jordan said, individuals in this situation need to understand they are the first responders, not law enforcement.
“If you are there, you are the first responder, and you are going to have to take some kind of action to help yourself out,” he said.
In many cases, Jordan said, that action tends to involve hiding under or behind an object like a desk, because that is what people have been taught to do from an early age.
“I don’t know why we are teaching our students and our staff to hide under their desks or hide in the corner and wait for the good guy to get there with a gun or the bad guy. That’s what the mentality has been when we have an active shooter come into the building,” Jordan told those in attendance. “Why are we hiding in a place where the shooter is right here in the same room as us?
“It’s not working folks, and ALICE is some of the solution,” he added. “You have to take some kind of action. Simply going under the desk won’t stop the attack.”
Of the five options or strategies outlined in the ALICE training program – alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate – Jordan said in his opinion the “best option” is evacuate.
Jordan noted that while FBI statistics show active shooters are not very proficient with a gun, they do get higher hit and kill ratios than law enforcement officers due to varying factors, including how close the active shooter can get to a victim who chooses to hide and remain still.
To turn those statistics around, Jordan said, potential victims should look to “evacuate, get up and move.”
If evacuating is not an option, Jordan said, there are counter options, including making noise, moving around, creating distance between you and the shooter, and creating distractions.
While receiving FBI training as part of his requirements for becoming an ALICE trainer, Jordan said, he learned in most cases, the active shooter wants to be the most dominant person in the room.
“My opinion is, if we can take that dominance away from them and create a distraction in their brain, then we are winning some of the battle,” he said.
To help better understand active shooter incidents, Jordan shared the following statistics:
•On average, it takes law enforcement across the nation five to six minutes to arrive on the scene.
•The average incident lasts between 10 to 12 minutes.
•Over 50 percent of time, the active shooter takes his or her own life.
•Ninety-eight percent of the time the shooter acts alone.
•Ninety-eight percent of the time the shooter is carrying more than one firearm.
Webb said he hoped the training session taught participants that “there are techniques you can follow that will increase your chance of surviving an active shooter situation. It is not a hopeless situation.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.