Many of the things present were very familiar to churchgoers: coffee, muffins, a polite audience and a passionate preacher.
Yet this was no ordinary day in Peoria, as the ALICE organization was preaching an unusual message: Survive an active-shooting scenario.
The message was crucial to this “train the trainer” active shooter scenario at Christ’s Church of the Valley. The event was sponsored by Cleveland training institute ALICE, an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
Before several intense exercises, ALICE staff gave presentations to first responders and community members from around the Valley, with the hope the participants would in turn stage exercises in their communities.
Two different scenarios starred Jim Clark, a captain and paramedic with the Buckeye Fire Department, and Charlie Johnson, an anti-terrorism officer with the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground.
In the first scenario, 150 first responders and community members hid in various rooms. Clark, armed with a “gun” which shot foam pellets, hunted down the cowering participants, howling, “I’m gonna find you! And you’re never gonna forget me!”
In the second scenario, the participants were instructed to exit the building as quickly as possible after receiving a signal.
Clark “shot” 34 people, while Johnson managed to hit just one
Illustrating one of the core messages: If you’re not sure you are in a safe place in this kind of scenario, get out of there.
ALICE’s Brandon Rhone encouraged first responders to use the tools they leraned to train others — especially at schools.
To those who worry an active shooter training might be traumatic to kids, Rhone has an answer: “Every kid in school has to do a fire drill once a month.” Adding:
“Can’t we train the same kids to increase their odds of survival with active shooter drills?” he asked.
The goal, he stressed: “Increase survivability from an act of violence.”
Rhone gave examples from around the country where school staff disarmed students who might have caused great harm.
“I’m not saying trade punches for bullets,” he noted.
In an interview, Sarah Gasper of the Phoenix Police Department noted first responders and others have already been talking to schools about potentially violent intruders.
“This is taking it to the next level,” she said. “It’s hands-on, practical training.”
That’s exactly why Justin Adams of the Buckeye Police Department attended.
“I wanted to come and take this course to be able to help the citizens of Buckeye,” Adams said. “Knowledge is the most important thing.”
What he learned from the ALICE presentations about active shooters?
“Doing anything is better than doing nothing,” Adams explained. “I want to give people that knowledge: Do something, rather than just sit there.”
In addition to playing the bad guy, Clark also was glad “to be educated and to be able to educate citizens.”
Even for someone in his line of work, where ghastly injuries are common, this training proved a shocking truth: “The reality of the numbers and how much devastation can happen in such a short time.”
For more information, see alicetraining.com.