I recently attended an ALiCE training session at my synagogue. ALiCE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) helps prepare for the threat of an aggressive intruder or active shooter. “Welcome to ‘It’ll never happen here’ U.S.A. This is the first thing that needs to change,” Mt. Lebanon Police Officer Scott Kunz said at the start of the presentation.
The Mt. Lebanon School District implemented this program in 2014 for staff and students. My kids knew what to do before I did.
When my parents were in school in the ’50s, there were air raid drills because of the Cold War. They learned to hide under desks or in the halls away from windows because of possible bombs.
In the ’70s and ’80s when I was in school, the biggest threats were Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde*, Cobra Kai, or someone taping over your show on VHS.
When my oldest started school, there were only an average of 6.4 incidents per year in the U.S. In 2017, there were 29. ALiCE’s focus is on survival. The key, we were told, is to do something. “If you make a bad decision, just make another one,” Officer Kunz said.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of Tree of Life congregation underwent ALiCE training not that long before the horrific shooting there on October 27. Prior to that, he didn’t use his cell phone during Shabbat. Because he was advised to carry one in case of emergency, he had it on him for the first time that day. As a result, he was the first to call 911 and knew what to do to help save lives.
The incident at Tree of Life has reminded us that we’re all vulnerable. Many places of worship are doing what they can to tighten security and improve safety. The ALiCE training at Temple Emanuel was informative; my friend and I agreed that we learned a lot. “It’s tragic that this is our collective reality,” my friend said, “but Officer Kunz was right to say that we have to accept it and be as prepared as possible.”
I actually debated whether to attend the training, because, let’s face it—with my deafness, I’m probably going to be the last person to know what’s going on. But I figured there’d be useful information. My friend also reminded me that because of my disability, I’m more observant in other ways and could very well pick up cues or signs that others might not.
Whether you’re a teacher, parent, or student, ALiCE should be mandatory for everyone. We have to face our new reality; arming ourselves with knowledge isn’t an antidote but a step in a safer direction.
Here’s hoping someday soon that the biggest threat to school kids is whether they’ve been tagged on social media.
*If you didn’t know these are the ghosts in PAC-MAN, you’re clearly of a different generation!