I have now been singularly focused on preparing and responding to Active Shooter/Active Killer/Violent Critical Incidents (VCI – my preferred term) for almost 20 years. I have spent more hours researching this topic than I care to count. I have trained thousands of people on this topic. Through persistence and stubbornness, I was able to make the acronym ALICE a national brand. I pioneered a complete change in thinking that led to a new protocol in citizen response training for VCI’s, that is now mirrored by every major federal and state recommendation and guideline on the subject. However, I am no expert.
I have spoken on this topic hundreds of times, and each time it seems during my introduction I am referred to as an “expert”. It makes me cringe. Why? Because there is no such thing as an expert on this topic. If such a person existed, surely, they would provide us the way to fix the problem. Isn’t that what experts do? – they provide a solution to a problem that they have figured out better than anybody else, and then they go on the circuit and make tons of money for their efforts… Nobody has been able to do that for these events. In fact, in some ways, the problem has gotten worse.
Knowing a lot about something does not make one an expert. Authoritative knowledge and skills are usually the benchmark, but experts are expected to be able to provide something with that knowledge or skill. All that the so-called “Active Shooter Experts” can do is tell you about what happened in past events, and provide suggestions/opinions as to what could happen next time. But there is not a single “Expert” who can tell us When, Where, Why, or How the next attack will occur. There is also not a single “Expert” who can tell us definitively what we should do to survive when that attack occurs.
Now there are lot of suggestions out there, including ALICE, that can recommend what you can do to survive… but do we know which strategy will work best for you given your circumstances in a future event when we have no clue how, when or where it will occur? Of course not. The best we can do is to equip you with response options and strategies, and then guess what? You have to become your own “expert”. You (or the collective you) must decide if you can safely evacuate? Should you secure in place? And what can you use to barricade your location? Should you counter the attack and attempt to take back control of our environment? All important questions that no expert can answer today.
Anybody who purports to provide a total package solution today for an event that will happen in the future (hopefully never) is a liar… and a fool. They are far more invested in their own self-aggrandizement than they are in actually helping. This is the primary reason I made it my life’s work to dismiss LOCKDOWN as a sole response plan, and instead provide folks with knowledge and skills that they can use to make good decisions during a terrible moment.
You will know what is happening when it is happening to you. You will know where it is happening when it is happening to you. You will know how it is happening when it is happening to you. And you will know who is doing it when they are doing it to you. Coupling those bits of information with knowledge and skills on good response options, and you can make the decision on what to do. Having confidence that your action will increase your survival through the experience of your practice will provide you the ability to perform the proper response. And surviving from doing what you chose to do… well, that makes you your own expert.
Founder, ALICE Training Institute