ALICE training unveiled for Cincinnati Public Schools

System based on concepts of 'flight' and 'fight'

CINCINNATI - A new type of training is under way for staff at Cincinnati Public Schools in case a gunman gets into one of the district's 53 classroom buildings.

The new training program is called ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. It's a seismic change from the way things have been done in the past and based on the concepts of "flight" and "fight."

"This is putting kids and teachers and staff on the offense," Cincinnati Public Schools Services Director Bill Moehring said. "Instead of just a lockdown, it allows them to escape."

"No longer are you going to be a victim," added Cincinnati Police School Resource Officer Shawn George. "Whatever you need to do to survive, that's what you do."

The ALICE system has already being taught at Withrow High School in Hyde Park and eventually will be implemented throughout the district.

Board members were briefed on the system Wednesday as part of an update to Cincinnati Public Schools' emergency management plan.

The ALICE program stems from lessons learned during the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

Students and staff at the Colorado school waited for police to arrive and help them. Many hid under tables only to have the shooters climb on top of those same tables and open fire.

"If I'm going down, I'm going down with a fight," Moehring said.

As at Columbine, CPS's current lockdown procedure includes waiting for the police to arrive. ALICE will change that.

In the new system, escape is the first option.

"If you can evacuate, evacuate," Officer George said. "Go out a window. Go out an exit door. Get out of the building and run as quick as you can."

If that's not possible, the second option is to fight back by throwing things, hitting or swinging at the attacker.

"You are going to empower yourself. You are going to fight back," Officer George said. "You're not going to just sit under a table and get shot."

Board members learned the emergency management objectives are collaboration, compliance and consistency.

There's been a tremendous amount of cooperation on planning and training by police, fire crews, emergency management, homeland security, the terrorism early warning group and Centers for Disease Control. The district is NIMS (National Incident Management System) certified and follows the NIMS command structure.

"These plans are extensive," said Cincinnati Public Schools Operations Chief Jessica Shelly. "They cover everything from a power outage to a pandemic flu epidemic to a natural disaster like a tornado or to man-made disasters like a bomb threat or an active shooter."

Officer Odayeus Leonard of the Cincinnati Police Department's Terrorism Early Warning Group said he's confident that a good plan is in place.

"We like what we see," he said.

Officer George said he gives the effort a grade of "A" or an "A++" if compared to plans in other cities across the nation.

Moehring said he agreed, adding that when the district participated in a FEMA training program in Maryland, the instructors said Cincinnati was light years ahead of other urban communities in its preparedness.

Other security measures the school district has in place include an employee card access system, secure school entrances, nearly 2,000 cameras in buildings, a lockdown button in each office and a lobby guard on duty in each building.

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