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Police address survival skills
December 18, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Officer Justin Brunz of the Gering Police Department talks about the security program being implemented in the schools and how businesses should consider similar measures.

“Today’s topic is unpleasant,” Gering Police Chief George Holthus told the audience at a Gering Business Club lunch. “It’s something no one wants to think about, especially during the holidays.”

The topic was how school administrators and students, or business people, would react if faced with an active shooter situation like what happened two weeks ago in San Bernardino, Calif.

“The folks in San Bernardino were thinking about the holidays and spending time with their families,” Holthus said. “Even though it’s not pleasant, it’s important to talk about this and prepare ourselves to be more resilient to survive these things.”

Holthus introduced Officer Justin Brunz of the Gering Police Department, who along with School Resource Officer Henry Moreno, are instructors for the ALICE program.

ALICE stands for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate. Those are the steps that need to be taken when faced with an emergency situation posed by an active threat in the building, whether the threat is carrying a gun, a knife, explosives or other weapons.

The ALICE program is a partnership between the City of Gering and the Gering Public Schools. Staff at the high school, Geil and Cedar Canyon Elementary Schools are being trained in how to keep their schools safe.
Other schools, including students will also receive training in the future.

Brunz said that over the past 25 years, the national average time for police officers to get to the scene of a mass shooting incident is about four to six minutes. In the cases of Columbine High School, Virginia Tech University and Sandy Hook Elementary School, those shooting incidents were over before first responders could arrive.

“That’s why people must prepare themselves to improve their chances of survival,” Brunz said. “We need to get out of the mindset it could never happen in a small town like this. This is not just a big city problem.”

It’s not only terrorism that drives attacks. They could happen because of disgruntled employees or customers, internal relationships that go bad, or any number of other causes that can set people off.

“A lot of businesses have signs that guns are prohibited in the building,” he said. “Unfortunately, bad guys pay no attention to them. They’re thinking there’s no one inside that can protect themselves.”

Department of Homeland Security recommends an option-based response plan, such as ALICE. An alert would be hearing gunshots or seeing someone come into the building with a gun. Lockdown, which has been used in past years in schools, are procedures for securing the building, getting everyone to a safe place and barricading the rooms. The Inform part of the phrase involves letting everyone know about the situation and what’s being done. Security cameras are a part of that.

Countering involves whatever measures people can take to avoid becoming a target in the case they can’t evacuate. It involves distracting the perpetrator long enough to allow for a window of escape. The next step is Evacuate – getting out of the building or out of harm’s way.

Brunz said the ALICE program was developed for schools, but he would like to see it expanded into the workplace, medical facilities and other government buildings.

“We need to wake up and realize we aren’t always going to be protected from these types of situations,” he said. “We need to start protecting ourselves because an incident will probably happen here. Talk to your family and coworkers about how you would react if it does happen.”
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