By Jacob Mathias
In an attempt to increase survivability in the event of an active shooter, many businesses and schools have enacted new response procedures and Wisconsin Rapids is following suit.
At a meeting of the city’s Human Resources Committee on July 12, committee members unanimously voted to approve instituting a new response plan to take effect if an active shooter or armed intruder were to enter a city building. The new plan is based on ALICE, a popular response procedure which has already been enacted by area schools and health care centers.
“There’s been discussions for several years now about changing from exclusively lockdown procedures…to something more encompassing that has increased survivability,” said Wisconsin Rapids Police Department Safety Officer Kasandra Borchardt.
Randy Jahns, WRPD Deputy Chief said the former lockdown only procedure can make for easy targets.
“We do need other options, we can’t just lock down all the time,” said Jahns.
ALICE is an acronym with five procedures including alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. The procedures do not have to be enacted in order but rather in the order of the best survival option.
“It’s a common sense thing but it’s not a common knowledge thing. The most important part is to get the education and awareness out to the staff that you have the right, you have the power and the authority to make the best decision available to you if the worst should happen,” said Borchardt.
District 7 Alderman James Stack asked if it had been considered to allow a concealed carry staff member on each floor of City Hall but current laws prohibit that option. WRPD Chief Kurt Heuer said that’s a conversation for another day.
“Sometimes that’s the quickest way to stop those people,” said Stack.
The city’s plan includes alerting law enforcement and staff about the situation as soon as possible. The information given should provide necessary details to help staff make an informed decision on what to do. A new phone system recently installed in city buildings adds a PA system that can be utilized for this. Staff should then proceed to evacuate the building as quickly and safely as possible. Evacuation attempts should always be taken first.
If it is deemed unsafe to evacuate, it is advised to lockdown and hide by barricading doors and covering windows.
“That’s part of it. It’s just buying time for law enforcement to arrive,” said Jahns.
As a last resort if life is in imminent danger, the new procedure advises attempting to counter the shooter by disrupting or incapacitating them using any and all forms of resistance. Resistance could include throwing items at the shooter and improvising weapons, acting aggressively toward the shooter and moving about quickly to lessen the shooter’s accuracy.
The procedures are purposefully left broad so as to be applied at any location as they will be at all city buildings.
The training would begin for all city staffers sometime in early August as the city’s five ALICE trained officers have more flexibility during the summer before returning to their posts as school resource officers. This time frame makes the training for financially feasible as well because no overtime wages would need to be paid.
The procedure now heads to the Common Council at its meeting on July 19 at 6:00 PM for final approval.