By Lilly Milman
Skagway School has trained students and faculty for three years in ALICE protocol for emergencies, a proactive policy that promotes evacuation over lockdowns.
The program’s name stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate. These steps, not always meant to be followed in that order, are designed to give people options during an emergency situation, according to the ALICE Training Institute, an Ohio-based company that trains and advises on safety programs.
It contradicts the traditional lockdown approach, during which students and teachers are to lock doors and hide from an active shooter, which the school used before switching to ALICE. “This is actually the wrong thing to do,” Skagway School Superintendent Joshua Coughran said of the lockdown plan. “If you can get out of the building safely, then absolutely do that.”
Skagway Police Chief Ray Leggett is a certified trainer for ALICE protocol and has come to the school twice to train faculty. Leggett said his “active crisis training” relies on ALICE protocol, but that he also encourages being prepared to use either method in an emergency. The school also runs an evacuation drill for students and faculty each spring. There is video surveillance in the hallways and outside as an additional safety precaution.
“The lockdown approach was never designed for an active threat inside the building,” Leggett said. “It was designed for a threat outside the building. We don’t advocate not using it. We believe in giving options.”
ALICE is not intended to scare students, but rather to prepare them for potential dangers, according to the company’s website. Already this calendar year, there have been 51 “shooting incidents” nationwide — defined as “each and every instance a gun is brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason” — in schools, according to data collected by the U.S. Center for Homeland Security and Defense.
Just three weeks ago, two Juneau middle schoolers were arrested for planning a school shooting on their fourth day of school.
Last year, there were 110 incidents nationwide.