What we can learn from ALiCE

January 2016 Editor's Choice, News

When shots are fired the instinct for the majority of us without years of military or police training is to panic. The decision to run or hide can be the difference between life and death. In our society these situations are thankfully rare, but at this time we are all of course highly sensitive to the fact that they do happen.

I recently spent some time with the ALiCE Training Institute, an organisation that was set up in the US to help improve the chance of survival in active shooter situations, by providing proactive advice and training to schools, corporations and government organisations.

Recently, there has been a shift in the recommendations ALiCE makes when faced with this rare, but potential situation. Whereas hiding was once advocated as an effective survival strategy, it is now recommended that a person in this horrifying situation run away or evacuate.

This shift is the result of a disturbing trend that shooters have become much more efficient in reaching their goal of maximising casualties. The Sandy Hook and Columbine tragedies in the US spanned six minutes. Historically, a shooter would’ve spent 90 minutes to get a similar causality count. In addition, most victims of an active shooting are shot at point blank range, while hiding under a desk or crouching in a corner by a low-skilled shooter. Knowing this makes running away a more effective survival strategy.

Throughout the day it struck me how the advice ALiCE provides to individuals (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) could also have huge value in helping security professionals charged with operating systems that are in place to help detect and manage such an incident, to plan for such an eventuality. Here are some examples of how that might work:

Alert: Nothing makes people aware about unfolding situations as efficiently as situation management technology. By continuously monitoring sensors such as gun-shot detection and panic alarms, once triggered, it automatically notifies all relevant stakeholders, including first responders.

Lockdown: While lockdowns are no longer considered the default response, in some situations they are necessary. In the event that one is necessary, a situation management solution that is integrated with access control systems would enable an automatic and instantaneous lockdown.

Inform: Keeping responders updated with real-time information is critical. Situation management solutions can provide a gunman’s location and description, while mass notification and inter-agency messaging capabilities effectively disseminate these important details. Additionally, video surveillance and analytics can be key in providing real-time information.

Counter: In most cases, it is the gunman that ends the incident, which is accelerated when he believes the police are on to him. So instead of waiting for the police to arrive and speak to him over the PA, an automated message could be played giving the same impression, ending the incident faster and reducing his accuracy via the distraction.

Evacuate: Although it is the last letter in ALiCE, it is the primary strategy and based on the premise that you can’t be killed if you are not there. With location-addressable PA systems, specific guidance can be given. This would be governed by embedded SOPs in the situation management platform and common sense from its operator.

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