HANNIBAL, Mo. -- The Hannibal Police Department has started training officials at the city's schools and government agencies in an active shooter response method that builds on traditional run-and-hide tactics to increase victims' chances of survival.
Last fall, Lt. John Zerbonia and Cpl. Jonathan Borgmeyer, resource officer for the Hannibal School District, became certified in the ALICE system, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. Developed in 2001 by Texas police officer Greg Cane, the ALICE method encourages people involved in violent intruder situations to do more than hide in a dark, locked room and wait for law enforcement to arrive.
"(Cane) came to recognize that the old, traditional form of reacting to a violent intruder only made people sitting targets," Zerbonia said. "He came up with this ALICE program to help be more proactive and give more options to increase their survivability."
Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show time is of the essence in active shooter events. For 110 events recorded between 2000 and 2012, the average police response time was 5 to 6 minutes. However, about half of those events had ended -- often tragically -- before law enforcement could reach the scene.
"It's not about minutes; it's literally seconds," Hannibal Police Chief Lyndell Davis said. "These people are emptying multiple rounds within mere seconds. There is no police department anywhere that can be there all the time and prevent this."
Davis said the HPD has trained for responding to violent intruders since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, and officers have worked with the Hannibal School District on dealing with those situations for several years. However, frequent mass shootings across the U.S. and mounting requests from businesses and government agencies for more preparation prompted the HPD to expand their efforts.
Since November, Hannibal City Hall, the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department, the Hannibal Board of Public Works, the administrative offices of the Hannibal Fire Department and the Hannibal School District have received ALICE training. Remaining school district buildings will undergo the four-hour session starting in February.
"It's an awareness of where society is at right now," Davis said. "It's not an acceptance of it, but we feel if we didn't offer this service, it would be somewhat negligent."
Similar to traditional teachings, the ALICE method calls for alerting police and other people inside an endangered building to a violent intruder. Potential victims should then find ways to stay updated on the situation through communication with each other and the outside. The information they gain could influence whether or not they decide to lock down or evacuate.
Zerbonia said leaving the building is the best option, but if it's not possible, people should lock themselves into a room and barricade it with tables, desks and other heavy furniture. They should also scan the room for items that could be used as a weapon, such as books, mugs and chairs.
Swarming the intruder or finding ways to disrupt their aim is also suggested, but using those tactics depends on each situation. The ultimate goal, Davis said, is to slow down or subdue the attacker.
"The more you slow them down, the more lives you save," Davis said. "Giving the police more time to get there is not only going to increase your survivability but the death count goes down dramatically."
Rich Stilley, Hannibal School District business manager, described the ALICE method as "eye-opening," since it goes beyond hunkering down and hoping for the best. He added the district will benefit from the training.
"It's an opportunity to try and improve what we do," Stilley said. "First and foremost, what we offer our staff and students is their safety."