Preparing for emergencies

By Spencer Gisser

The prefects crouch under desks in a pitch black science classroom. A man throws open the door. Short, rapid bursts of light from a dark figure in the doorway hit each of the cowering figures. A voice grimly announces: “All of you are dead.”

For months, Head of School Security Jim Crawford has been planning to train students to react effectively to a potential intruder on campus using the A.L.I.C.E. system, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. 

To test the system, the student prefects underwent a four-hour training session Dec. 13 along with Director of Student Affairs Jordan Church, dean Tamar Adegbile and Father J. Young. The prefects will provide feedback about their experience, which will be considered in the decision on whether or not to implement the procedure school-wide, Crawford said.

The prefects first simulated a response to an active shooter under the current lockdown system. They didn’t resist, and the bursts of light from security guard Mark Geiger’€™s flashlight “killed” all of them as they crouched, defenseless.

Crawford explained to the prefects how the current lockdown system left them as helpless stationary targets. He explained tactics to use under the A.L.I.C.E. system, and, using Junior Prefect Jake Schine as a target, Crawford threw balls while Schine stood still. 

When Crawford instructed him to run back and forth he had trouble pegging Schine, demonstrating the difficulty of hitting a moving target.

Crawford told the prefects to move if they had to deal with a shooter. Confronting a shooter is fundamentally like “dodge ball”, Crawford said.

“It teaches a different way to think about it,” Senior Prefect Joey Friedrich said.

Students can use chaotic and loud noises against a potential attacker on campus to distract them, Crawford said.

“You’ve got to be scared, got to be strong, got to be loud. Girls, scream,” he instructed.

Having received directions from Crawford, the prefects tried to use the A.L.I.C.E. system. Crawford handed out soccer balls to represent throwable objects.

This time, they barricaded the door with desks. The “shooter” tried pushing the door open, during which Head Prefect Tessa Wick ’09 yelled “we’€™re going to kill you.” They threw soccer balls at him, tackled the shooter and held him down.

Crawford gave the prefects feedback on their tactics. He emphasized the importance of fleeing rather than attacking a shooter, a last resort tactic. He also commended Wick for intimidating the shooter.

In some cases, students might have to crawl through windows to escape. The prefects tried to see if they could escape through the windows, two square feet each and six feet off the ground.

After trying for about five minutes, the group evacuated only Junior Class Prefect Jennie Porter and Senior Prefect Ariana Sopher, realizing that a window escape was much more difficult than any of them had expected.

In another simulation, Junior Prefect Reid Lidow tied a door handle to a cabinet with a belt to secure the door. They barricaded both doors to the room and tackled the shooter again.

The tactics used in these simulations could also be used if one’€™s home is attacked, Crawford said.

Afterwards, Crawford answered questions from the prefects relating to the use of weapons in self-defense. He said that weapons should only be used if the defender is trained in the weapon’€™s use because the defender’s weapon could be turned against them.

“I think that the A.L.I.C.E. approach is very important and should be an integral part of school security on all school campuses,” Lidow said. “Hopefully, Harvard-Westlake will adopt the safety program.”