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ALICE Training And Shooter Simulations Prepare Responders

Chynna Lockett

So far this year, there have been 107 mass shootings in the U.S. That number comes from the not-for-profit cooperation Gun Violence Archive, that tracks gun incidents across the U.S. Trainings and active shooter simulations have become standard at many workplaces and schools. There was one this week in Pierre.



The FBI and Gun Violence Archive define a mass shooting as one where four or more people are injured or killed. None have taken place this year in South Dakota, but active shooter simulations help people, law enforcement officers and first responders stay prepared.


This week’s training in Pierre involved employees at the Attorney General’s Office and the Division of Criminal Investigation. Responders included the Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Management, Central South Dakota Communications, EMS teams and a local Hospital.

Bryan Walz is the administrative captain with the Pierre Police Department.

“A real life active shooter situation whether it be within a work setting such as this, a school setting or even in an outdoor setting just prepare us for our response. What types of resources we have available, what we need to get for resources, and then just give us a general overview of the way that agencies work together-which is very well.”

In Pierre, there have been training simulations at schools and the Capitol Building. But Walz says since active shooter situations are unpredictable, the responders can't train for every location. He says simulations help them learn to handle different incidents with similar techniques.  

“We do know the layouts of most of the buildings within our town-federal buildings, things of that nature. So you can never say that ‘we know this is where it’s going to happen’ but we can say that ‘we know that no matter where it happens this is the way we are going to respond.’”

Walz says officers are trained to follow the sound of gunfire, whether  alone or in a group. He says drilling techniques like this make real situations easier to handle. Learning escape strategies like locating fire exits can help civilians stay safe.  

“The person just has to have that will to survive and that’s all we would ask of anybody. We’ll do our best to get there, we’ll do our best to stop the situation, but until we get there, we need you to do your best to try to survive the situation.”

Employees in this week’s training used a strategy called ALICE to respond to the shooting simulation. The acronym stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate--and it encourages  people to take action to protect themself… even getting out of a building.

Brian Blenner is the Lieutenant in charge of Juvenile Operations at the Rapid City Police Department. He encourages this kind of  proactive training because national response times show it takes police an average of four to five minutes to respond to an active shooter call.

“So that’s why you really need to teach the public not to be a victim and how to increase their survivability. Instead of depending on whether it’s us or whoever with the weapon, why don’t we just teach them how to be safe.”

He says so-called ALICE training is replacing the lockdown system in Rapid City Area Schools. There are programs that train kids and teachers to fight back and run. Blenner says the majority of  gunshot wounds are survivable.

“If you choose to run, that’s evacuate. Maybe they go out a window, maybe they go out a door. But statistically you increase your survivability if you simply run away. It is very difficult to hit a running target and if you do hit a running target, it’s very difficult to do a shot that would create a mortal injury.”

Some of the techniques in the program involve throwing things to distract a shooter’s focus or even attacking a  shooter. Blenner says the ALICE classes will be offered this summer in Rapid City so businesses can implement their own plans.

Attorney General Marty Jackley says the prevalence of mass shootings in the U.S. shows how important is it for people to learn how to protect themselves and those around them.

“And that is to not just hunker down or lockdown, but to use that common sense and to fight back and to get out. You don’t want to sit around if there is an active shooter that is harming those around you.”

The simulation in Pierre was unique because it prepared responders and employees to handle a situation where others in the building are armed. Jackley says communication makes a difference and prevents employees from mistakenly harming each other. He encourages schools and business to have a plan in place.

“In the event that there is an active shooter just like whether  there be a fire alarm or something of that nature, simply be prepared. To know where the exits are, to know where the opportunities are to best protect employees, I think that's important and I think it’s the responsible thing to do.”

Jackley says South Dakota has been fortunate and avoided mass shootings. He attributes that to law abiding citizens, a strong law enforcement and schools that have good communication strategies. However, he acknowledges that tragedies can happen anywhere and says it’s important to stay prepared.