Training for Safety

NCCS staff, North Canton first responders participate in ALICE drill

Niko Pitinii and Kosta Volas, Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief

In cooperation with the North Canton Police Department [NCPD] and North Canton Fire Department [NCFD], North Canton City Schools conducted a live ALICE drill Aug. 17 at Hoover to teach teachers, police officers, firefighters and other first responders what to do should an intruder enter the building.
ALICE is an acronym designed to aid people in remembering what to do in case of a lockdown with a possible intruder in the building. School Resource Officer Phil Taylor explained what it stands for, and how it can help people remain safe in case a threat to the school should arise.
“The A is alert, L is lockdown, I is inform, C is counter and E is evacuate,” he said. “It’s a fluid thing, so the alert part and the evacuation part can happen at the same time. You hope you never have to counter, [because] that means that evil has made it, breached the doors [or] something like that. ALICE is something, it’s not just by the numbers.”
Taylor, along with North Canton Fire Chief John Bacon, set up this training day, an effort that has been three years in the making. Officer Taylor spoke about some of the challenges of the drill.
“There’s a lot of stress on my behalf because there were several things going on,” he said. “Number one, we had our shooter that was in the building who I had to make sure he got around. I had to give him enough time to do evil. I started him upstairs and had him do some shooting upstairs with our blank guns so that they could hear it outside. The problem is our blank guns are not that loud. Some of our shotguns are really loud but we gotta watch what we do because the percussion or concussion of those [blank guns] blow out ceiling tiles. I also don’t want to set off the sprinkler system.”
While Taylor set things up from the police side, NCFD Chief Bacon was an integral part of the success of this training day. He was in charge of the rescue task force, a group of people designed to immediately get in after a disaster to save lives.

NCCS/ used with permission

“What we wanted this task force to be about was the rescuing of students,” he said “We had mock students in there being hurt just to accomplish us working with the police and its environment. That’s what our primary goal was.”
Once this training started, the stress began to ramp up for everyone around the building. Officer Taylor led the operation.
“My role in it was to get the people in places to do what we needed to do,” he said. “I have to have [teachers] here to see exactly what we’re doing and the logistics behind that. Those [staff] are the people that are most affected, so those are the people that need to see what’s going on.  I brought in a couple of what we call flashbangs, they’re distraction devices that we brought into use as loud noises.”
Training days like these are common for staff, running drills without students in the classroom — but this one was more intense and real than the usual drills. North Canton City Schools Superintendent Jeff Wendorf gave some insight into this.
“We try to do at least a semi-annual ALICE lockdown training with our staff exclusively without kids here, so they can understand how it works and what some of the protocols would be,” he said. “ This particular one was a little more extensive. We’ve always included police for lockdown, but this time we included fire and rescue.”
The scale of realism in this drill was designed to prepare teachers for real-life situations. However, with such extreme measures, it at times became a stressful environment. Hoover AP Literature teacher Gretchen Leckie-Ewing spoke of the experience from a staff perspective.
“There were some moments where we got a glimpse of how intense and frightening a real experience would be,” she said. “And it obviously wasn’t the same, but we got enough of a hint of it that was disconcerting. No one cried, [and] no one that I noticed got really upset, but we’re all very aware of the danger of school shootings. That’s part of what the drill was there for, was to make us think about it.”

NCCS/ used with permission

Unfortunately, school shootings have begun to happen more frequently in today’s world. Even one of Hoover’s neighboring schools has endured this tragedy; as a result, Taylor explains the importance of these drills.
“It’s important because it’s real,” he said. “It touched me; it touched everybody in our community about what happened in Texas,” he said. “They made their decisions down there. The problem is some of the decisions they made could have cost lives. Things of that nature. That brings it real to here, [that’s] why it’s more prevalent now, because sometimes it’s not even the first headline in a news broadcast or national broadcast — because it happens so frequently. Now, it’s more regionalized.”
Taylor reflected on the tragedy of April 20, 1999 to make his point.
“When [the Columbine shooting] happened, that was on the front page. It was the first thing. It was the only thing. It was on television because it was something that had never happened before. Now it’s getting to almost a weekly occurrence, so it is something that we need to be prepared for.”
Hoover Principal Eric Bornstine spoke about the experience for the staff.
“I think overall, the whole thing was positive,” he said. “I heard a lot of questions from the staff, and when Officer Taylor was in a large group before we even started the drill, he went through the ALICE summary because we have new staff. He reiterated the department’s intention to immediately come in and go toward the situation, and you could easily see the staff relax with that reassurance.
Then, events take place elsewhere, and it just builds in the psyche of everyone. So, I think that’s a huge plus again, to have the fire chief here, the police chief, and the SROs saying this is what’s going to happen, and you can rely on us that we’re going to come. I think that overall makes things that are not fun to do, but that we do have to practice, it makes them that much better. And I think the realism that officer Taylor planned into it helps once again, from the smoke from the fire alarm, from actors in the hallways, from executing rooms, all those pieces kind of make it more real. And I think that’s a huge positive.”

This drill had many components involved in its success. Especially in this realistic climate, first responders got to train for this type of emergency.
“I do think that I think it was good for [first responders],” Leckie-Ewing said. “I think they learned a lot. I know they said they learned a lot. They filmed it from a couple of different angles so they can go back and review the film and see what did or did not go the way it should have. That was a valuable resource for them.”

NCCS/ used with permission

One facet of the first responders were the paramedics. Bacon spoke regarding the medical side of the drill.
“The Rescue Task Force is [a team of] paramedics that have tactical training,” he said. “They have tactical gear. They have bullet resistant vests [and] they have helmets. They are trained to go in and take care of the immediately injured parties that are in there right now.”

“They’re not there to treat and hold hands and stuff like that,” Bacon added. “They go in, and they assess what the damage is. If [students] have a critical injury, we triage them and then they move on to the next patient. We’re there to save lives. What can we do immediately to save that person’s life — that’s what their primary goal is. You remember the Columbine incident? They waited hours. In our prep, we only want to wait minutes.

NCCS/ used with permission

We’re going in [and] we’re starting to save lives, right? That’s our goal.”
Before ALICE was created, there was a different system in place designed to keep people safe in case of an intruder. Taylor gives perspective as to why this system was not the best, and why it was replaced with ALICE.
“A lot of people have learned run, hide, fight, which was taught in some places before ALICE,” he said. “You want to run away from evil, if you can’t run away you hide, and if you can’t hide you fight. The powers that be that came up with [ALICE] said they were tired of putting our kids in that situation and basically setting them up to die.”
While the thought of an intruder entering the building to do harm is scary, this training and other less real days are designed to help both students and staff prepare, should this awful thing happen. Leckie-Ewing gave her gratitude to the organizers of this day for helping to educate us on this very real threat.
“ I am very grateful to our district,” she said. “As much as I did not relish the experience. I am grateful to our district for what they do, and for how seriously they do take that because it is a serious thing and it is a scary thing. And we know that we can’t just sit there and call 911 you know, and that’s important to know because that didn’t help in a lot of places.”