Milton Police Sgt. Scott Philbrook has spent the last two years teaching schools how to respond to an active shooter. Last week, he took his training to his colleagues at the town offices.
Officials from eight departments listened attentively as Philbrook, the former school resource officer, presented the school-based active shooter protocol known as ALICE.
“We all say it won’t happen, and statistically speaking, there is a very low probability,” Philbrook said. “But there’s a probability, and because it’s there, if you don’t train, people could lose their lives.”
Philbrook felt the program, originally used in schools, was something anyone could benefit from learning. He’s since instructed businesses, fire and rescue and churches under its five-step, nonlinear protocol: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.
“I just thought it was a good opportunity to take the time and the money that the district invested in me to send me to this class … to get it out to everybody,” he said.
Philbrook changes the wording of his PowerPoint to make it applicable for his different target audiences, but the message is still the same: “Make a decision.”
ALICE is a rethinking of the shelter-in-place theory, according to the sergeant. It suggests people should take action and make decisions during violent events instead of hiding under desks.
Action, Philbrook said, can range from barricading rooms to delay an intruder, communicating information about the event to coworkers and law enforcement via a multitude of media platforms, to hitting an alarm or evacuating the building.
The “counter” step, officers explained, is most controversial. In this step, victims in an aggressive intruder or active shooter event are encouraged to defend themselves with force should the perpetrator enter their space. As Philbrook noted, not everyone feels they can perform this role.
“At no point can I teach you—or can anyone teach you—that you have to fight,” he said. However, if people are comfortable, there’s nothing “unfair” about throwing objects at or trying to stop the intruder, he said.
According to town manager Don Turner, his background in public safety motivated him to train town employees in these responses.
“Any kind of training that we can have in this area is important; we have a lot of people in and out of the building throughout the day,” he said. “It’s important for people to have an education of what it entails, what we should be looking for, what we should be doing and how we should react.”
According to Chief Stephen Laroche, the town’s police have received two threats against the department in the past five years, and the town offices have called in several times for “concern about someone in the community.”
Laroche emphasized town employees should report any concerns they may have with him and can do so in confidence.
The meeting ended with a question-and-answer period in which many of the attendees sought to learn more about preparing for the worst. Afterward, officers offered up their services to help employees determine how to make their spaces safer in the event of an emergency. The wail of the offices’ panic button – pressed to show employees the “alert” step in action – rang out in the background.
“This is not the cure-all end-all,” Laroche said. “But it’s a start: Get in the mindset that you’re going to survive.”