If somebody told you that a can of peas or a Harry Potter book could save your child's life in the event of a shooting, you'd probably laugh in his face. However, that's exactly what W.F. Burns Middle School believes could happen. The Valley, AL, public school sent home letters to parents requesting that every child come "armed" with an eight-ounce canned food item, which would "give the students a sense of empowerment to protect themselves and will make them feel secure in case an intruder enters their classroom." While a few 12-year-olds fighting off an armed gunman with canned peaches may seem absurd, the practice is encouraged in a new type of active shooter response training dubbed ALICE.
Representing the words alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and escape, the ALICE response training is being taught in school systems nationwide. The basic rundown of each step is this:
- Alert: Students are trained to report suspicious activity in two ways. First, by calling 911, then by informing the rest of the school (via intercom) about the shooter's position, description, and any other notable details.
- Lockdown: The second step is like a beefed-up version of normal school lockdown procedures; students turn off the lights and remain quiet, but instead of acting like sitting ducks, they barricade doors with heavy furniture.
- Inform: People within the school are trained to use any safe channels to inform others about the shooter's location. Real-time updates to as many people as possible about the shooter's activity (via email, PA system, and 911 calls) are encouraged.
- Counter: This is where the cans of food and hardcover books some into play. ALICE trains students not to act as sitting ducks when faced by a shooter, but instead to throw hard objects at the assailant's head and, if possible, attack the shooter to take him down. If the students are able to take down the gunman, they are trained to store the gun beneath a chair or trash can while piling on top of the attacker.
- Escape: If piling atop the gunman is not a possibility, students are told to throw their hard objects (cans, books, shoes, staplers, etc.) at the assailant's head while running from the room. Once they're out of the classroom, they are supposed to run until they can no longer see the school building and to wait for word from authorities or their parents.
W.F. Burns Middle School administrators have emphasized that they don't believe the need will ever arise for their students to use their "weapons," but that they are simply preparing for the worst. At the end of the school year, the canned food items will be donated to a local food bank, creating a charitable cause from disaster preparedness.
So, what do you think about this emergency preparedness tactic? Would you send your child to school with a can of food?