For those of you who went to Dunkin Donuts during C Block on Thursday October 24th, the school completed its first ALICE drill to prepare for intruders in the case of a dangerous incident. ALICE stands for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate and was mandated by the state to provide an alternative solution to the previous lockdown method. In the past, the school has advised students to stay in their classrooms against the walls with the lights turned off and the doors locked. The goal was to avoid chaos in the hallways, and potentially creating targets in large numbers. However, after further examination of these methods in school shootings throughout the nation, this response did not seem adequate. In the Sandy Hook Newtown shooting incident that occurred December 14, 2012, students were harmed because they stayed in their classrooms and followed protocol. In light of these incidents, Massachusetts has decided to implement the ALICE system which allows teachers and students to respond the threat in a manner they deem necessary.
With the help of the Concord police, the school went through three scenarios: typical lockdown, intruder in the cafeteria, and intruder in front of S-18. For the second two situations, students and teachers had to decide the appropriate course of action. The majority evacuated either to the parking lot or to the front of the Beede Center. Some students reported that there was a bottleneck situation when students left the building near the construction, which stopped movement for awhile. Principal Badalament addressed these concerns in an email to the student-news and through the loudspeakers saying, “most of you thought that it was a very worthwhile exercise. People said it got them thinking about what they would do in a bad situation. We know, and advise, in a real situation that you would move much farther away from the building. We would not expect you to stand in large groups near the building. During future drills we will practice gathering up on the Turf Fields after the immediate danger has passed. This will be the place that we will account for people and then reunite them with their families. In a real situation, the police would be headed to the target, not supervising our exit.”
Each science classroom is equipped with cans of soup to be thrown at the intruder in the instance that the intruder enters the classroom. Many students and teachers have thought of more creative ways to handle the situation; textbooks, chairs, calculators, and other heavy classroom materials have been suggested as possible defense equipment.English teacher Kate Fleming even suggested equipping each student with a hardcover edition of Madame Bovary. Math teacher Jeryll Kennedy even brought three filing cabinets into the classroom to barricade the doors. Teachers even went so far as to show students a secret dusty tunnel in the physics classroom, as Elaine Picard and Kevin Penucci both did. World Religions teacher Ethan Hoblitzelle encouraged a calm state of mind during these drills by allowing his students to meditate.
Cricket McCaffrey-Clark laid out an extensive plain of escape for her AP Chemistry students; her advice was to “take the road less travelled.” She mapped out routes to avoid traffic jams such as routes going through the I building instead of the conventional S building route. Her students reported that they felt overwhelmed by her safe presence and have confidence that in the case of an actual emergency, they will be prepared. Her words of wisdom are, “be aware of your surroundings because that is what can ultimately make the difference between life and death in these situations.”
Police officers noted that the drills went smoothly. Badalament promises that the school will incorporate students’ feedback to ensure that future drills will run more efficiently. He leaves us with an important message that “school is statistically the safest place you can be on any given day. In reality, you are the ones that keep us safe, as you are committed to sharing your concerns with adults.”