Walpole High School Resource Officer Thomas Hart and Officers Matthew Crown and Patrick O’Connor presented Walpole High School students with information about ALICE protocol on Feb. 12. ALICE stands for alert, lock down, inform, counter and evacuate and refers to any dangerous situation requiring action.
“With ALICE, we want to give the kids the authority to have an active role in decisions,” Principal Stephen Imbusch said. “You want them to be active thinkers and say, ‘what is the best thing for me to do right now in this situation?’”
In the presentation, the officers discussed terms representing various methods that students and faculty should use in case of a critical situation. The new terms include reverse evacuate, when conditions inside are safer than outside; lock out, when there is a possible threat or hazard outside of the building; and shelter in place, when there is an imminent threat or hazard and the public must remain inside to stay safe. Officers also emphasized that all situations are different and that each one can be handled in different ways. Throughout their presentation, officers showed various video simulations made by Pete O’Farrell and his Advanced Television Production class and pointed out what they did and did not do well, while also explaining what else they could have done— further promoting the idea that each situation can be managed differently.
“ALICE makes it a lot more acceptable to talk about in class,” O’Farrell said. “If one person gets through a bad situation because of these videos and ALICE, that’s fantastic.”
Even though only high school students have been exposed to this information, the Walpole Police Department (WPD) plans to introduce ALICE to all middle and elementary school students in the future. Additionally, WHS will have at least two drills per year to practice the procedure, similar to the protocol for fire drills.
“Student actions can help to stop many of these situations from ever happening,” Hart said. “We want students to feel empowered to say something if they see something.”
In addition to ALICE training, WPD made other improvements to further secure citizens and students of the Walpole community. One way they have achieved this is through geofencing. In Walpole, if one were to call 911, he or she would directly connect with the Walpole dispatcher. Prior to this change, anyone in need of emergency services would have to speak to a state dispatcher and then get rerouted to WPD. Geofencing takes out the middle step and saves time in critical situations. Along with geofencing, in WHS, when 911 is called, the main office is made aware that a 911 call was made and the location of that call. If someone needed to contact the police but was unable to call, it is now possible to text 911. All Walpole faculty members were trained by the WPD last fall through E-learning, presentations and active training, where staff were placed in classrooms and scenarios were made up for them to work through.
“The methods in ALICE are more effective than just a lockdown,” junior Lang Delapa said. “ALICE is definitely a good step in increasing our safety because no matter how much extra security we have, there is still a risk.”
WPD has dedicated two locations as rally points in the case students and staff need to get away from the school. These locations are the Walpole Police Station and Occident Circle which is to the east of the high school.
“The students, staff and teachers are really the first responders in critical situations because those first few minutes until the police arrive are going to be what makes or breaks the day,” Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael said. “At the end of the day, if something were to happen, students are now prepared to respond the right way.”