Officials plan for school emergency

Published 8:43 pm Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In a proactive move to ensure school safety, emergency personnel, law enforcement officers and public and private school officials met on Thursday morning to hear a plan for responding to a school shooting.

Prentiss High School Principal Pete Howell made an informative presentation to the group at the Dennis Fortenberry Career Center in Carson.

After attending a conference and hearing about enhanced lockdown procedures at schools, Howell lobbied with Superintendent Ike Haynes to share the information with leaders in the county.

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“We don’t want to have a Sandy Hook,” said Haynes referring to the massacre of 20 children and six teachers by an armed gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

ALICE, and acronym that stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate was the center of discussion. ALICE evolved because traditional response was slow and has cost lives stated Howell.

The traditional response has been for teachers and students to crouch down and hide. “Don’t huddle,” says Howell. “If you crouch down, you’re waiting to die.”

“ALICE is the most proactive thing I have seen that makes the mission harder for the attacker,” said Howell who served in the US Army as a paratrooper and was a Deputy Sheriff wounded in the line of duty.

In a dramatic example, Howell held up a thick Webster’s Dictionary that he had previously shot at point-blank range with a .38 and a .22. Neither bullet exited the back of the book.

“Keep the intruder off balance,” advised Howell. “Run past him if you have too and exit the room holding a book bag over your head.”

Jeff Smith of Mississippi Emergency Management Agency suggested a live run-through drill be performed with all school personnel and emergency responders participating. “We’ve done over 40 of these exercises and we have found that communication is always a failure,’ said Smith.

Perhaps Howell’s most favorite acronym is ABN – anything but nothing taken from a quote by Teddy Roosevelt. “In a moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. the next best thing is the wrong thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Haynes requested the next available date for a run-through emergency drill for the county, which MEMA said will be after the new year.