The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is in the process of revising its Emergency Action Plan and is working with local law enforcement to implement new lockdown guidelines in the event of an armed intruder.
Since 2007, the KPBSD had used the same lockdown procedure for “Active Shooter Situations,” which called for a school to lock its doors and have staff and students hide and wait for help to arrive. Based on recent studies from the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which have reviewed past school shootings, there is more than one response to a lockdown, said KPBSD Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones.
“New guidelines recognize that one response to a lockdown doesn’t fit all situations,” Jones said. “As a situation develops, it is possible that students and staff will need to use multiple options to get to safety.”
On May 8, KPBSD issued a lockdown for Nikiski North Star Elementary and Middle-High Schools as a precautionary measure while Alaska State Troopers searched for a man with a gun in the area, later identified as Nikiski music teacher Jeremy T. Anderson.
According to a Clarion article dated May 9, the high school went into lockdown at 12:15 p.m. while Nikiski North Star Elementary went into lockdown 30 minutes later. Administrators at both schools confirmed the lockdown at about 2 p.m. but would not divulge details of the situation.
While the district received concerns from parents with the delay of information regarding the Nikiski lockdown, Jones said there is a fine line between sending information out as soon as possible and also wanting to make sure the correct information is set out.
Jones said in light of the Nikiski incident, the district wanted to improve the lockdown procedure while putting together a better communication system to inform parents as soon as possible. The district came across ALICE, a new procedure that includes school training from local law enforcement. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.
Jones and four other KPBSD administrators attended a two-day course in Anchorage on “Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools” Aug. 4 and 5 put on by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Along with disaster preparedness, the course included “Active Shooter Situations.”
“Over the years a lot of things have happened and it’s not always necessary to go into full-blown lockdown,” Jones said. “We can tell parents the doors are locked if someone in the neighborhood is a possible threat but we can still continue education.”
Jones said the course helped the district revise its emergency action plan and bring it into compliance with the new guidelines. Changes would include getting information out to parents and the public using a pre-recorded auto-dial message to improve communication.
On Aug. 27, principals throughout the district will receive one-day ALICE training and work in coordination with Alaska State Troopers, and local municipality police departments. On Aug. 28 and 29, all law enforcement agencies on the Kenai Peninsula will send officers to the ALICE two-day Train-the-Trainer program. The selected officers will work with the schools in their areas to educate staff and students on the protocols.
Kenai Police Officer Alex Prins has received ALICE training and will work with all the Kenai schools. The program is designed for police to work closely with the school and take proactive steps in the event an armed intruder situation arises, he said.
Prins, who is a school liaison officer, said ALICE makes the most sense to him because instead of students and staff hiding, it is designed to limit potential targets.
“For too long the schools have been left holding the bag to figure out policies when it is not a school issue, it is a law enforcement issue,” he said. “Nobody wants me teaching math and no teachers should have to deal with an armed suspect. Hopefully this is the answer.”
Greg Crane, a police officer from Ft. Worth, Texas, created the ALICE program while his wife Lisa, was an elementary school principal. After the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 2001, Crane developed new ways to help schools survive an active shooter situation and his wife tested the strategies through drills. ALICE has been adopted by more than 900 organizations, according to the ALICE training website.
Prins said he has taken seminars and heard from investigators who studied school shootings at Columbine and Sandy Hook. ALICE utilizes more common sense techniques like calling out a shooter’s location on the intercom to let people know where to hide and where it would be safe to evacuate, he said.
“I’m pleased and happy with all the law enforcement who have taken time and effort to commit to help provide safety to our students and staff,” Jones said. “From the troopers to Kenai, Soldotna, Homer and Seward Police. We always knew we had great protection.”
Jones said after all the school principals have received training, each building is required to perform two lockdown drills throughout the year so all students and staff would be familiar with the protocol, he said. No drills have been scheduled yet, he said.
“Unfortunately more and more school shootings have become a realistic threat for districts around the country,” Jones said. “We need to be prepared and ready if it happens. It’s definitely one of those things you train for and hope never happens. We want to keep students and staff as safe as possible.”
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.