SAUGUS — Saugus Police are recommending a change in protocol for threats of an aggressive intruder or active shooter at the town’s public schools.
The Massachusetts Task Force Report on School Safety and Security’s recommendations to the governor state that the lockdown method, which includes students hiding under desks or against walls, is no longer a stand-alone strategy to secure in place during an active shooter threat.
Instead, Saugus Police Chief Ronald Giorgetti is recommending the public schools train administrators, teachers, and students in the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate (ALICE) method. Saugus Police were trained in this method last year, but it can’t be used in the schools until the procedure is adopted by the School Committee.
“With this cutting-edge safety and security program, we are providing educators, staff, children, and residents with resources that could potentially save their life in an emergency situation,” said Giorgetti.
The lockdown technique originated during the Cold War as a method of protection from nuclear threats. Government agencies have found that a change in methods is necessary. Rather than using a lockdown-only approach, they recommend ALICE, according to a statement from Town Manager Scott Crabtree.
ALICE is a comprehensive emergency response program that provides strategic methods to help individuals better respond to an active threat.
The first step, alert, includes becoming aware of the threat, overcoming denial, and recognizing the signs of danger.
The second step is to go into a lockdown by barricading the room. This differs from the lockdown-only method, because the time in lockdown should be used to prepare an evacuation or counter strategy. During training, students learn when and how to communicate with police and techniques for barricading a room, according to alicetraining.com.
The next steps include clearly communicating information about the situation, using channels like video surveillance, 911 calls, and PA announcements; countering by creating noise, movement, distance and distractions if necessary; and evacuating a danger zone when it is safe.
Training occurs online and through hands-on drills to ensure learning retention and proper application of strategies. Training modules, which are available to all staff, will be tailored based on students’ ages and needs.
Giorgetti will present information about ALICE to the School Committee on Thursday. The committee will be tasked with adopting the program before it can go into effect.
“The safety of our children is the primary concern for the School Committee,” said chairwoman Jeannie Meredith. “I am thankful that the police and town have brought in this nationally recognized response system that will prioritize the safety of the kids, staff, and school, and better prepare ourselves for this changing environment.”
A year ago, Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi reported the police department was training to learn ALICE safety measures and would later introduce them to the schools.
This announcement came on the heels of a threat written on a whiteboard at Saugus High School in March 2018 that brought DeRuosi, the town manager, and detectives to the school during after-school hours.
The writing was discovered by a custodian in a wing at the rear of the building, and, while the writing did not directly threaten an individual or group, DeRuosi said it included concerning language.
“It turned out to be more or less a student issue that had nothing to do with the school,” said DeRuosi. “It was disturbing graffiti but there was no viable threat.”
Still, the administrators snapped into action. Police assisted in a controlled school entrance the next morning that restricted entry to the building to one door. Teachers monitored various doors around the building to ensure they were not being used.
There are 48 existing exterior doors at the high school.
The School Committee meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Roby Administration Building.