While active-shooter situations in schools have captured much of the media attention in recent years, there also is a risk of a similar life-threatening emergency in other places. These include malls, grocery stores, churches, parks and workplaces, Falmouth Police Captain Jeffrey P. Smith said.
This is why, in addition to training staff and students in Falmouth Public Schools on safety strategies such as ALICE, the police department is offering safety training to Falmouth businesses, organizations, and Town of Falmouth agencies and facilities.
ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, is a nationwide program designed in part by the US Department of Homeland Security to supplement current shelter-in-place procedures used frequently in public schools and institutions. School Resource Officer Ryan Hergt is the lead ALICE trainer for the schools.
Falmouth Police Detective David Massi, who has also trained in ALICE, has worked with dozens of businesses and churches in Falmouth to help prepare them for an active-shooter scenario.
“It’s impossible to know where the next active-shooter event will take place, but we’re getting dozens of calls to offer the training sessions,” Det. Massi said.
Along with using ALICE skills, Det. Massi brings in skills from an approach called ALERRT, which stands for Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training.
“ALERRT training, which I learned at Texas State University, is more focused on the civilian response to active-shooter events and is commonly known as the ‘run-hide-fight’ or the ‘avoid-deny-defend’ approach,” he said. “I also trained in a Louisiana State University program that brings together law enforcement and fire personnel.”
Last month, the Falmouth Police and Fire/Rescue departments engaged in this second type of training exercise at the Falmouth Cinema Pub on Teaticket Highway, which Falmouth Fire/Rescue Chief Michael F. Small called a “rescue task force” model during a recent Falmouth School Committee meeting.
The rescue task force model allows emergency medical personnel to treat and extract people safely and effectively.
“We break it down into the hot zone, warm zone and cold zone. The hot zone is where the actual threat is happening. The warm zone is where this rescue task force component takes place,” Chief Small said.
Public safety personnel from Mashpee and the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office also took part in the training exercise.
“In my two-day training sessions with local businesses and groups, I’m taking from several approaches,” Det. Massi said. “On the first day, I do a PowerPoint presentation with background information and statistics. The second day I bring in safety equipment, and we run through some scenarios using ALICE and run-hide-fight skills.”
The first scenario is the “sitting duck” situation, in which people have no power to evacuate the area or counter the shooter, Det. Massi said.
“People are conditioned to shelter in place, hide under a table or play dead, but this is statistically proven not to work,” he said.
The training then moves on to more proactive scenarios.
The second is barricading a door but having no physical contact with the shooter.
The third involves having one participant play the shooter in a hallway wearing padding and carrying a Nerf gun. Participants, one inside the room and one outside, share information about the shooter’s location and movements by cellphone.
“This allows participants in the room to decide whether to barricade the room or evacuate the area depending on what information they receive, to determine the best approach for them,” Det. Massi said.
The fourth scenario is the “fight back” or “counter” situation.
“The person playing the shooter bursts in the room, and the other participants throw racquetballs and tennis balls at him to confuse, distract, slow or evade him,” he said.
Those interested in scheduling an active-shooter training should contact Capt. Smith at 774-255-4527, extension 4503, or email@example.com.
Beyond the police training, some Falmouth businesses and institutions, including most banks, rely on their own security staff to prepare them for active-shooter and other dangerous situations.
At the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, campus security director Steven L. Sykes is a veteran of the US Air Force Security Forces, where he was trained thoroughly on active-shooter situations and eventually became an instructor on active-shooter procedures.
“What our department provides is that for every incoming course, I give a short briefing on the run-hide-fight active-shooter system from the US Department of Homeland Security. I cover this annually with our year-round staff at the MBL as well,” he said.
In both briefings, Mr. Sykes said he covers each element and explains the necessities of having a plan.
“I also inform them that we do provide security actions, which I won’t go over because it is strategic, but we notify the Falmouth police immediately upon notification as well as alert the campus through our alert system. We also notify local agencies like WHOI and NOAA of the situation at hand,” he said.
MBL’s security department reviews and practices its training procedures twice a year, and whenever new officers join the staff.