Iowa City School District implements new emergency evacuation plan


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City High, among other Iowa City area schools, has set the wheels in motion to start a new emergency evacuation plan.

City High faculty will begin their training this week.

The ALICE program — alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate — adds a new perspective to the current program by encouraging students to take measures other than hiding during an emergency.

“One of the biggest components is a realistic response based on what we’ve seen in the past as the emergency plan has evolved,” Iowa City police Lt. Bill Campbell said. “It’s different from the way it was viewed, five, 10 or 15 years ago.”

The new evacuation plan follows a year in which the United States saw 16 mass shootings with 88 deaths, according to The Nation.

Susie Poulton, director of health services for the School District, said although recent shootings in Sandy Hook Elementary and Aurora, Colo., reinforced the validity of the plan, the district began work prior to the tragedies.

“I believe every time a crisis occurs like this, we learn more and we re-examine our protocols and make appropriate changes,” Poulton said.

The new plan augments the concept of communication. Officials emphasized the importance of making as many people within the school aware of any emergency that occurs, along with informing law enforcement immediately. It aims to unify administrators, teachers, and local enforcement in their response plans. This communication would be a key preventative measure to save lives during an emergency.

“What [analysts] have found out is for the first few seconds or minutes, it’s likely someone will be injured or killed, but what stops the killer is that the police are imminent, so they decide to give up or kill themselves,” said Chuck Green, the assistant vice president for the University of Iowa police.
The newest plan began in the fall 2012, when district officials approached the UI for assistance. UI officials had been working with a Violence Incident Survival Training program. District members attended the training voluntarily before the district as a whole stepped forward to receive a blended approach to a new emergency plan.

The previous emergency program for the district was set in place in 1999 — prior to the Columbine shooting.

Before the increase in publicized mass shootings, no training existed for possible victims, Green said. No instruction existed for teachers or people in office and mall settings. This lack of preparation brought about the ALICE program.

“That’s why ALICE came into existence — that’s why we took this training, so they have the best chance of saving themselves while the police are arriving on the scene,” he said.

The fight-or-flight concept is newly incorporated into the plan, as opposed to solely advising the victims to hide.

“If you’re in a position where it’s too late to hide and it’s too late to evacuate, what ALICE tries to do is it tries to give some common sense thoughts as to how you can fight back, how can use your own hands, fists, legs, or whatever it might be around you to try to, in essence, to save your life,” Campbell said. “Because that’s what we’re talking about here, obviously. We’re talking about life and death.”

With officials hoping to have the plan fully installed by the end of the year, John Bacon, the City High principal, hopes to continue to make adjustments within the district.

“The training increases our preparedness to deal with a crisis situation,” Bacon said. “We seek to continually review and improve our plan, and this training is a great way to keep getting better.”

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