“It’s pretty disturbing that we have to take the time out of our day to do this,” said Principal Kevin McNamara to a group of students in the auditorium that were about to be trained in the ALICE protocol, which gives them the tools to protect themselves in the event of an intruder or active shooter situation.
“You never know when you’re going to use the strategies taught today to survive,” he continued, adding that “today is a serious training. It’s meant to help save your life. I can’t put it any more bluntly than that.”
Administering the training on April 24th were Captain Philip Gould of the Lincoln Police Department, LHS Resource Officer Michael Cavanaugh, and LMS Resource Officer Christopher Nightengale. Gould, who has worked as a police officer in Lincoln for 26 years, spent several of those as a resource officer, which he said was his favorite place to work.
“I liked being here because I knew I could keep people safe,” he told the crowd.
Several years ago, Lincoln teachers began receiving training in the ALICE protocol (ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate). This has included lectures and drills, and now, the students are being brought into the world of ALICE training, “to be part of the solution.”
The ALICE protocol, unlike the “Dr. Bacon” drills where the entire school goes into a lockdown, allows for faculty and students to make decisions based on the situation and independent of what others are doing. Teachers can communicate with and alert one another through an app called “Safe Schools.” They can choose from four options: “We’re OK,” “Danger Nearby,” “Send Help,” and “Out of Room.” Based on where the danger is, they can lockdown (which involves locking and barricading the doors), counter (throwing items at the intruder in self-defense), evacuate, or any combination of the three.
“ALICE basically says in that moment, you have to do what you have to do to survive, to delay, [and] to escape,” said Gould.
“This is not the time to goof off,” warned Officer Cavanaugh, “[because] your life could depend on it.”
These drills will added to the 15 fire drills per year and “Dr. Bacon” and evacuation drills, according to Captain Gould. He added that the skills that the LHS community will learn from ALICE can be applied in other situations beyond high school as well, including college campuses and movie theaters. He would like to see these ALICE drills done once a year, because “at the end of the day, this is what’s going to save your life.”
“Don’t just sit there,” he said to the crowd, “don’t be a victim. Fight for yourself. Fight for your classmates.”
The day after the training, Lincoln High School had an ALICE drill. During second period, an announcement was made over the intercom saying that there was an intruder in the new cafeteria. Based on this information, teachers and students across the school sprung into action.
“I decided to lockdown or barricade the door to provide a barrier to entry, while the class also prepared to fight or flee,” said math teacher Mr. Jeff Bitton, whose classroom is just down the hall from the new cafeteria. “I felt keeping all three options open was a good strategy, so that we could adjust to a fluid situation.”
“It was a bit strange,” he added, “watching my students piling up desks at the doorway. The thought of an intruder in the building trying to harm my students, myself or other staff members was a chilling notion to consider.”
For students, the event was just as surreal.
“The ALICE drill was a very strange experience for me,” said senior Natalie Westrick. “After doing years of lockdowns it felt strange to switch to actively doing something to protect ourselves but I think that conscious switch is very important.”
Westrick, who was in Bitton’s statistics class at the time of the drill, said that while she felt very safe, the experience “was still very surreal.”
“It still amazes me that we live in a world where all of this is necessary,” she said, “but I feel so much more comfortable knowing that many of my fellow students and teachers feel the same way.”
Kayla Piggott, a sophomore, told WLHS news that she thought that the drill was “great.”
“I’m really happy that our school,” she said, “and schools in general are taking the bigger step. And if we can’t get, like, gun laws under control, then at least we can take another step to keep everybody safe.”