New safety training emphasizes need for a quick response
NEW CANAAN — A new safety measure is being implemented district-wide that teaches students and staff to run, hide, fight during a violent intruder event.
At the Dec. 3 Board of Education meeting, Joanne Rocco, principal of South Elementary School, presented an update on the district’s Crisis Advisory Board (CAB). Rocco discussed the work of CAB and the decision to switch to more proactive training for active shooter situations.
“In a traditional lockdown, children go into one corner of the classroom, where they aren’t visible and just wait. Teachers lock the door, pull down the shades and turn off the lights,” Rocco said. “All of the experts in the field are saying that is not the best approach to lockdowns, because we’re not doing anything other than sitting and waiting.”
Instead, the district is considering ALICE — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate— training. With this approach, teachers are taught to be more proactive instead of following a typical sequential method, Rocco explained.
“Through training, we train our mind to think more flexibly than we have been,” she said.
The district hosted an ALICE training seminar over the summer that was attended by 24 staff, faculty and administrators from the New Canaan school system and four members of the Police Department. During the training, attendees were put in different scenarios to understand a variety of options when dealing with intruders on school grounds.
“You really see the power of being empowered to do something rather than sit in a classroom and wait,” Rocco told the school board.
Implementing the training would be different at each level, she said. For the elementary level, they would not look to change too much of the regular procedure.
“There’s lots of things we’re already doing to prepare our kids for this,” she said.
Saxe Middle School Assistant Principal Steve Bedard, who attended the summer training, said a violent incident can last five to 10 minutes. Comparatively, a police response can take five to six minutes.
“In terms of alerting people to act appropriately and swiftly, it’s really important,” Bedard said.
To be more proactive, ALICE training teaches staff to barricade their doors, look for escape routes and spread out in the room. This gives students and staff a variety of options, Bedard said.
Assistant Principal at New Canaan High Kristi Carriero said the program teaches staff what to do if confronted by intruders: throw objects to disorient or disarm them. However, if possible the program stresses evacuation as the preferred response.
“Overall the goal of ALICE is to increase survival through proactive response options during a violent critical incident,” Carriero said. “It’s training our brains to think critically and making informed decisions to act.”
The next steps discussed for the district is to provide information to parents, and continue the training of teachers, staff and eventually students.