MEDINA – Columbine High School, April 20, 1999 – 15 dead and 24 injured in 49 minutes. Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007 – 33 dead and 25 injured in 11 minutes. Sandy Hook Elementary, Dec. 14, 2012 – 28 dead and two injured in 11 minutes.
These active shooter events and others like it saw mass carnage in situations where law enforcement’s response time just wasn’t quick enough. That’s what National ALICE Trainer Shawn Slezak told Medina City Schools employees Jan. 17.
The retired 22-year law enforcement veteran, joined by teammates from the ALICE Institute here in Medina, took over Medina High School Jan. 16-17 to provide training for teachers, staff and administrators.
A special talk for district parents was given Jan. 16. About 65 to 70 showed up to ask questions about ALICE.
The services were given at no charge to the school district.
“Forty years ago, we didn’t have to do this,” Slezak said. “History shows us that cops won’t always be there right away, as these events are typically over in just a matter of minutes.”
The messages were clear and blunt. Active shooter situations with fatalities, particularly in schools, have risen dramatically over the years. Medina is doing what it can to be ready just in case.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reported that over the last four years, the country has experienced an increase of nearly 150 percent in the number of people shot and killed during active shooter incidents.
Founded by retired law enforcement officer Greg Crane and school administrator Lisa Crane in 2001, ALICE is an acronym that stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate.
It’s a situational proactive approach designed to create distractions and interrupt the process of a shooter while either countering the aggressor or escaping to an established rally point.
Its thorough steps provide additional options beyond a simple lockdown and assumes every event is not the same. The program is endorsed by the Ohio Department of Education, Ohio School Board Association and the Ohio School Resource Officers Association.
“Police will never be quick enough in this situation. The occupants will always be the first responders,” Slezak said.
District employees underwent simulations and attended seminars Jan. 17 at MHS. ALICE will later work with each classroom and administrator to establish rally points and hammer out evacuation routes.
Thereafter, the teachers will pass along age-appropriate tailored instructions to students.
MCSD Director of Business Affairs Jon Burkhart said the schools are investing in triage trauma kits for each building and training people on how to use them.
Interim Superintendent Dave Knight and Mayor Dennis Hanwell joined in the talks with parents Jan. 16.
“The safety of the community is of the utmost importance,” Knight said. “That’s why our teachers are going through this training.”
Hanwell talked about the countywide combat-like training initiatives all safety forces have gone through to be ready. This would prove useful in mutual aid situations.
In the city of Medina, medics, police and fire respond together every day just in case.
“Everyone goes on the calls,” he said. “Often, what’s on the phone isn’t what you find when you get there.”
Hanwell, who doubles as the city’s safety director, also described a game plan of how the departments would handle an active shooter situation.
He said police would sweep the premises and neutralize the threat while firefighters would rescue and evacuate injured persons outside where a triage would be setup by LST.
“We plan for this. We train for this and we’re going to have the best chance to do it correctly. We do all this training for something we hope we never have to do,” Hanwell said.