React and fight back — How NJ schools are preparing for a shooting emergency
Since the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting 5 years ago in Newtown, Connecticut, when a crazed gunman killed 20 students and six adults, there have been 75 incidents involving gunmen entering or trying to get into schools across the country.
Thankfully, most of these situations don’t result in tragedy. Nevertheless, all school districts in the Garden State are now required to work with local authorities to develop a comprehensive Safety and Security Plan, which includes at least two active shooter drills a year.
In the past, many schools opted for a "lock the door and huddle in the corner" approach, but a growing number of districts are now using the ALICE training program.
ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, encourages educators to think on their feet, react to how the situation develops and even fight back against a gunman if the situation warrants it.
“We’re constantly updating these policies, trying to learn from events across the country how we can be better prepared here in New Jersey,” said Christopher Leusner, the chief of police in Middle Township in Cape May County and a vice president of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.
The chief said the ALICE program is being used by more and more school districts for a very simple reason.
“It just offers more options, this situation, god forbid it happens quickly, and you’ve got to give options for teachers and students.”
Currently in New Jersey, 80 school districts are using the ALICE program.
“It’s important you don’t get locked in to – this is going to be my absolute, 100 percent method that I’m going to us, god forbid something happens," he said. "I think you’ve got to be prepared for an array of circumstances. I think you’ve got to be flexible.”
He said in order to develop a plan that’s truly effective, everybody needs to be involved.
“This means school officials and police are talking about potential different scenarios, talking about strategies that can be employed,” he said.
“You want the police involved, the schools are involved, it’s important that EMS is involved. That’s one thing we’ve been seeing a lot of in a lot of the plans, is making sure that EMS is working closely with police.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com
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