"Intruder in the eighth grade hallway: initiate ALICE!"
As I arrived at the Barnesville Middle School campus recently, this ominous directive shattered the morning's quiet and was a clear signal to anyone inside or outside the building that the day's lessons were being shared in a unique fashion.
Luckily, the announcement I heard as I came up into the campus was simply confirming the exercise I was there to witness was getting underway.
T-L Photos/KIM LOCCISANO
Communicating efficiently and effectively is a skill even professional responders have to work on developing and keeping sharp. Emergency responders will not be helped in their efforts to connect with those in need if all they have for directions to a location is something akin to “go down the hall past Mrs. Smith’s new art room, then head to Mr. Hall’s lab room.” In preparation for this recent district-wide ALICE training in the Barnesville School District, standardized easily visible signs were posted in specific critical areas inside a school building. These signs help relay more accurate location details that can be communicated to emergency responders should a situation arise. The new signs underscored the danger of not being able to easily provide clear directional details to those who might need to bring relief to a situation by entering a structure and being able to move confidently to where their skills and resources would be needed most urgently.
T-L Photos/KIM LOCCISANO
ALICE Trainer Bethany Hayes shows a Barnesville Elementary school teacher how to block visual access to a classroom.
The ALICE program, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, creates a safety-centered school environment built on traditional practices in our nation's school systems for managing threatening situations within a building.
ALICE Trainer Bethany Hayes, director of public safety at Ohio University Zanesville - Zane State College, was overseeing the activities through which the students in the Barnesville district would each get an introduction to the program's school safety centered program.
The day's exercises were student focused. Staff and parents had previously had their respective opportunities to take part in ALICE classroom instructional opportunities.
Educators are accustomed to maneuvering students through routine fire drills. Thankfully, the slated activities were planned drills. However, they were the first of their kind to be brought into the Barnesville schools.
"Students at the elementary, middle and high schools were trained in ALICE response options or what to do in case of an unwanted intruder in the school. Bethany Hayes, head of security at Zane State, along with Chief Dave Norris of the Barnesville Police Department facilitated this training," said Angela Hannahs, Director of Curriculum and Instruction and Program Manager for the 21st Century Grant for the Barnesville School District.
"Prior to ALICE, students were trained to respond to an unwanted intruder by locking down in their classrooms. Now, students have options, such as barricade and escape, in response to an unwanted intruder. Bethany opened students' eyes on how to respond in a crisis situation, ultimately maximizing their survival in this type of situation," said Hannahs.
She praised the on-site presence and support for the pro-active ALICE exercises by School Resource Officers Chris Hanes and John Fuchs, Barnesville Police Department personnel and specifically thanking Barnesville Police Chief Dave Norris.
Hannahs saw the police department's on-site participation in the ALICE exercises as clear indications of the already solid partnership between the Barnesville school system and local first responders.
Barnesville High School principal Micha Fuchs said of the portion of the training held at the high school that day was preparing "students and staff to react to situations confidently and proactively."
"This was an invaluable day for the students," offered the high school principal.
"The students were very receptive to the information and reacted in a positive way. Students were asking questions and conversing about ways to improve the safety practices of our school," she added. "It is my belief the students at Barnesville High School are much better prepared for these situations today than they have been in previous years."
But students were not the only ones who felt they benefited from taking part in the day's exercises at the three school buildings in the district.
"Because I teach in both buildings and work with kids of different grade levels, it was imperative that I see and know what the kids are being taught to do," shared Leslie Skinner, computer applications teacher at both the middle and high schools.
"My classrooms in the two buildings are completely different. In one building I'm on the second floor right up from the main entrance. In the other, I'm on the opposite side in a building that is self contained," said Skinner. "I have to be ready to react in both buildings and with all kids. I am very grateful the district provided this opportunity to all teachers and all students. I personally feel I am much better equipped to protect the students."