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Schools prepare for violent intruders



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LINN POLICE SGT. James Bushey leads a session Friday, Nov. 15, to train Woods School teachers and staff members how to handle violent intruder situations.

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November 19, 2013 | 10:28 AM
The video shows men and women in an office, exchanging papers in hallways, typing and handling phone calls in their cubicles. A muscular man in black steps out of an elevator, raises a shotgun and steps up to these people one by one, firing into their chests.

It’s not real. The man’s using what appears to be a pepper ball gun in a dramatic production designed to illustrate the method of handling these type of situations that Linn Police Sgt. James Bushey taught Friday to staff at Woods School, town of Geneva.

But it’s a depiction of incidents which are occurring more frequently. In a phone interview Saturday, Bushey said the number of situations in which violent intruders enter schools and other public places is growing. Recently, an armed felon entered a Milwaukee area hospital, he said, but the incident was resolved without that person discharging their firearm.

The method taught by Bushey, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officer in the towns of Geneva and Linn who slid into role of school resource officer over the past five years, is called ALICE — Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate. He said he has taught it at Traver and Alden-Hebron, Ill., and he will conduct a session at Reek School in December.

The idea is to take an active approach toward safety.

“We have fire drills, tornado drills, all the time,” Bushey said. “Although they’re unpleasant, we still do them. This is just taking the same steps.”

He said they conduct lockdown drills at the area schools — one that everyone knows about, one that’s unannounced. “What’s the best way to train? When they’re unprepared,” Bushey said.

And while security measures help, being trained in ways to handle a school shooting matter more.

“You can put all the security resources in place — the video systems and the bulletproof glass — but if you’re not properly trained, all these things aren’t going to work,” Bushey said.

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A lockdown itself originated in prisons, he said, as a way to account for all prisoners. It wasn’t a practice designed to address a violent intruder situation.

“The cookie cutter way of just locking your classrooms isn’t working anymore,” Bushey said.

But the practice has its place. There are two types of lockdowns — soft, in which everyone stays where they are, classroom doors are locked and classes may continue without students leaving the room; or hard.

It is with a hard lockdown that modifications were made, Bushey said. This is where ALICE applies. He stated in handouts he provided to Woods teachers that in a hard lockdown, stay where you are, but escape if possible, and use plain English.

That last one may seem a bit peculiar to include, but during the session, Bushey explained an incident in which someone called 911 and said there was a “code red.”

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“When it comes down to an active event, we want to get out of using code words,” he said, because codes, in general, are not universal.

“Try to use plain English so everyone knows what’s happening,” Bushey said.

In other words, if there is a shooter by the gym, just say it.

But surviving a violent intruder event comes down to being observant, using common sense and improvising.

“If there is a shooter outside, well, what would you do if it was a fire? You wouldn’t want to go out to the fire,” Bushey said. “So this is really common sense-type stuff.”

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The video outlines several steps that fall under three categories — run, hide, fight.

n Run: If you can escape, do it. Get to a safe place and call 911. If you can, prevent others from entering the building.

n Hide: In a classroom, try to create a barricade. Position students along a wall so that a shooter cannot see them right away upon entering. Turn out the lights, close the blinds.

n Fight: Act with aggression to take down the shooter.

“If you’re going to engage somebody, if you’re going to go into hands-on with them, you stay that way until the fight is over,” Bushey said.

This is where improvising can help save a life, and it seems to have generated some interesting self-defense techniques.

Bushey said many classrooms are now keeping a collection of canned foods — soups and vegetables, for example. The intent is, if an intruder bursts into class, the teacher and his or her students will each throw canned foods at them.

He said one classroom he entered during a drill, the teacher came to the door with a large textbook in her hand. “She had all her students behind her, and they all had books in their hands — the same books — waiting to hit me.”

In the audience of the training session, a teacher turned and asked Woods Administrator Ed Brzinski questions.

“That’s why we’re going to have to start practicing,” he told her. “It’s just like a fire drill.”

The teacher expression concerns about children panicking during a school shooting crisis.

“I’m worried about adults panicking,” Brzinski said.

However, the more teachers train, the better their chances of emerging from a violent intruder event alive, Bushey said.

As for children, he said he believes they handle the drills well. “They see it the same way as they do fire drills.”

But one of the more popular questions at Woods was how do you explain this type of situation to the younger children.

“We just explained it (as) it’s kind of the same thing as stranger danger,” Bushey said. “It’s that concept, and we explain what to do to get safe and we tell them to know that police will be helping.”

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