As my regular reader 🙂 might be aware, I’ve been concerned about the report of W. F. Burns Middle School asking parents for canned good to place in classrooms as improvised weapons. In fact, the idea struck me as so suicidally silly that I was darned near sure it was a hoax. I was wrong; it was real, apparently an element of the “ALICE” (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) system of response to an active shooter in a school.
But reporters are notoriously bad at getting facts straight. It was possible that some lazy scribbler confused ‘We advise being aware of possible improvised tools in the surrounding environment’ with “Stock improvised weaponry in advance.” So I went to the source, the ALICE Training Institute’s Keith Siegel, Chief Operating Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As I’m sure you’ve been pleased to note, ALICE has been in the news recently. You may be somewhat less pleased with the response to certain apparent aspects of ALICE (“School Requests Students be Armed with Canned Food Items to Thwart a Possible School Shooting,” http://buzzpo.com/school-requests-students-armed-canned-food-items-thwart-possible-school-shooting/), to wit: prepositioning canned food as last ditch weaponry for the children. I must admit that as a military veteran, former peace officer, and former licensed private security officer, I found the _reports_ that your system advocates this AS A PLAN a little troubling. (While I do think that one — even a child — should be prepared to fight back if necessary, _planning_ the use of improvised, minimally effective weaponry — to the extent of prepositioning canned goods just for the purpose — seems less than wise. “Improvisation” is what you do when _plans_ fall through, when the _right tools_ were not prepositioned.)
News reports rarely get all the facts right; reporters often “invent” facts to to scoop the competition or increase their audience. Knowing that, I’ve looked over your web site and see that prepositioned improvised weaponry for children seems to conflict with element “C” of your ALICE system.
So, finally my question: Does your system actually teach and advocate prepositioning canned food for use in fighting off an attacker(s) equipped with firearms, or is this a misinterpretation by the media? If it is not an accurate description of the ALICE system, will you contact W. F. Burns’ Principal Holley to correct her dangerous plan? (Note that prepositioning items specifically as weapons for children also violates that school’s code of conduct and may even constitute a class C felony in Alabama.)
It was a fairly simple “Yes, we suggest it” or “No, we don’t; we simply advise being aware of possible improvised tools in the surrounding environment” question. Yes or No. The response from Nick Feyerchak, National Sales Manager (email@example.com):
Thanks for your inquiry. Would it be possible for us to schedule a brief call? I’d be happy to walk you through the ALICE concepts and give you some background as to where the “throwing canned goods” originated.
Please suggest a few times.
Uh oh. No straight answer. They want to talk to me by phone rather than give a simple Y/N in a conveniently copy&pastable email. I gave Feyerchak my phone number and awaited the call. I kept a list of questions ready so I could be careful and precise.
-ring!- Mr. Feyerchak on the line.
After the usual pleasantries, Feyerchak began grilling me on my qualifications (milvet/peace officer/security officer). He wanted to know how I heard about this. He wanted to know when I first heard of ALICE.
I cut him off. “Am I answering your questions, or are you answering mine? Does your ALICE system recommend prepositioning improvised weapons in schools?“(Read straight off my ‘script’.)
He asked if I was familiar with OODA Loops.
I replied affirmatively and asked if he was familiar with my question: Does your ALICE system recommend prepositioning improvised weapons in schools? Yes, I was getting impatient with him; his entire routine was designed to evade a straight answer.
Which he still wouldn’t give. He finally stated that they recommend keeping a tool box, and at the bottom of that box would be things that could be used as weapons.
“So your answer is ‘Yes’?”
“Yes.” He began babbling some more, but I cut him off.
“Thank you. That’s what I wanted to know.”
I never did get around to asking why they thought prepositioning canned food was more effective than pre-planning and positioning tools actually designed for defense, or if they would advise schools like Burns of the code of conduct/legal conflicts of their suggestion. It took a few minutes for him to say yes or no. Bog only knows how long he’d have skated around those. I’m on a prepaid phone with just so many minutes available.
So PrOincipal Holley was actually following specific advice to violate her school district’s code of conduct (and possibly commit a class C felony) to stockpile beanie weenies to hurl at armed, murderous psychopaths. Advice which even conflicts with element C of the ALICE system (“ALICE does not endorse civilians fighting an active shooter…”).
I have no problem with teachers and students being encouraged to do whatever they must to defend themselves, including grabbing anything available. Improvised weapons as a last ditch measure when better options have run out is good. Skipping proper tools and planning to use minimally effective improvisations first is simply asking to be killed.
I’d rather see schools buy bulletproof whiteboards, than see them spend money on ALICE.*
(Which is a shame, really. Much of ALICE is good sense, as far as I can tell from the web site. But they spoil the whole thing with the canned food projectiles. I’m afraid of what other deadly advice slips into the program.
* I have problems with some of the proposed deployments of those, too. But at least they’re designed for the job, and would stop bullets better than beanie weenies.