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September 29, 2023

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Action, not waiting, stressed in emergencies

The second the shooter walked into the room, everyone’s emotions seemed so heightened that Cassie Sines can only describe the experience in one word— scary.

Luckily for Sines and the rest of the staff and residents in Falcon Heights, the shooting was just part of a drill for the Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate program put on by the University Police Department.

Sines, a Resident Advisor in Falcon Heights, worked with the University Police to offer ALICE training for students living in the residence hall.

“Learning and practicing everything makes you feel a lot more comfortable about those kinds of situations,” Sines said. “That’s why I brought it to my hall.”

Part of the training consists of information sessions, and the other consists of the drill, which Sines, staff and residents went through twice. Mike Campbell, who helps train students and RAs in the ALICE program, goes through two different reaction scenarios in during the active shooter drill.

During the first run, residents and staff are told to essentially “do nothing” or hide, which would constitute a lockdown. The next time, Campbell asks participants to try a more active approach in taking action against the shooter, or to avoid them entirely.

“Most people are familiar with lockdown, but where ALICE expounds upon lockdown is to ask ‘is that always your best way to survive a situation like that?’” Campbell said. “We don’t want you to think that that’s your only option.”

While the University has several safety precautions in place, including a 24-hour on-campus police department, AlertBG and the blue lights, students’ and staff’s immediate actions are sometimes the most crucial in an active shooter situation, Campbell said.

“Our response time is going to be fairly quick, but where ALICE comes in is ‘what are you going to do for that minute or two minutes before officers arrive?’” Campbell said. “If you’re ever in that situation, those one or two minutes is going to seem like a lifetime.”

In intense situations like mass shootings, people to tend to revert to do what they’ve been trained to do, which is one reason why Campbell said he considers ALICE to be a valuable preparation method.

Although Campbell doesn’t believe that ALICE can necessarily prevent instances such as the Virginia Tech massacre, or the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, he does think it can better prepare RAs and students like Sines.

“It’s really just trying to give people more to think about in the hopes that it will increase their survivability,” Campbell said.

When ALICE training started at the University two years ago, administrators in the Office of Residence Life immediately started training RAs during their August training session, said Tim Shaal, senior associate director of Residence Life.

“We thought it made sense to do it with the RAs since it’s a larger group of student leaders and considering the nature of their work on campus,” Shaal said.

Shaal believes that programs like ALICE better prepares residents and students for an active shooter situation on campus.

Residence Life plans to continue including ALICE training in its annual RA training every August, he said.

Like Shaal and Campbell, Sines believes she and her residents are better off in the event that a scenario similar to the one in the ALICE drill were actually to occur on campus.

“You can never avoid something like that, but you can be prepared for it,” Sines said. “I definitely feel more like I could walk out of a situation like that alive because of ALICE.”

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