Manitoba

Winnipeg schools eye American training program for active shooter threats

Schools in Winnipeg could be the first in Canada to adopt the American training program, ALICE, aimed at handling the threat of an active shooter or terrorist attack.

'Things evolve ... so you've got to have some options,' Const. Vern Novalkowski

Winnipeg Police are recommending Winnipeg schools adopt a new American training program to better respond in the event of an armed intruder. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Schools in Winnipeg could be the first in Canada to adopt the American training program, ALICE, aimed at handling the threat of an active shooter or terrorist attack.

The Winnipeg Police Service is recommending all six school divisions in the city implement ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training.

It differs from the traditional lockdown procedure Winnipeg schools currently use.

Winnipeg schools eye American training program for active shooter threats

5 years ago
Duration 1:23
Schools in Winnipeg could be the first in Canada to adopt the American training program, ALICE, aimed at handling the threat of an active shooter or terrorist attack. 1:23

"With all of the incidents that have happened down in the U.S. they've found that just locking the doors and sitting in the corner is not sufficient enough," Const. Vern Novalkowski says. "You need to do something else."

Novalkowksi, the force's school safety officer, travelled to the states earlier this year to receive ALICE training.

He said the lockdown approach was a "good beginning" but it's not ideal for all situations.

"Things evolve ... so you've got to have some options," he said. "If that armed intruder comes into the room what happens? They're all sitting in the corner that's all the training they've had ... If you don't do something you can be one of the statisitics."

ALICE: an alternative to lockdowns

Former police officer Joe Hendry, a national trainer with the ALICE Training Institute, said the approach has already been used on a number of occasions, including in April, 2014, during an active shooter situation at Kent State University and in the Green Bay school district in Wisconsin.

"We utilize [lockdown] for a number of reasons but largely because no one though really about, 'This is going to happen to us,'" he said. 

"I've heard it from locations that had actual events, that they practised turning off the lights and getting under the table or getting to the corner of a room. That response has absolutely nothing to do with an active situation or a terrorism event," he said.

Hendry said the lockdown approach isn't helpful if shootings take place outside of certain locations, such as classrooms.

"The bad guys don't limit ourselves. We've only been limiting ourselves," he said. "We need to have a plan that's dynamic and flexible like they [have]."

Novalkowski said the program arms staff with "last resort" options in the event an armed intruder gets into the locked space. The program also suggests if you can get out safely you should, instead of going into a locked room, he said.

"We also talk in regards to the barricading. That is something we can be utilizing now instead of just locking the doors," Novalkowski added.

He presented the program to all six divisions in June.

Winnipeg School Division chair Sherri Rollins told CBC News they are in preliminary discussions with the police and she is keen to learn more at upcoming meetings this fall. 

"It's unclear, at this point, if the police service wants that brand or package or if they want a more intuitive, active lockdown process with us, so we're interested in hearing more." Sherry Rollens said, adding she is cautious of pre-packaged programs and wants to explore all available options.

It is up to individual divisions to decide if they will implement the new training. It comes at no cost to the school, Novalkowski said.

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