Wednesday's Hot Topic Luncheon, hosted by Newton Chamber of Commerce and Harvey County Emergency Management tackled the issue of "Active Shooter Preparedness."
Harvey County Emergency Management Director Gary Denny shared how law enforcement and first responder agencies from across the county came together with representatives of government, health care and education to form the county's policy on active shooters.
"The policy at the time was, 'we're going to go on lockdown; we're going to take shelter,'" Denny said.
That strategy countered what some law enforcement officers were teaching their children — which was to run away from active shooters. After listening to the concerns of those present at the meeting, a need to form a common policy was recognized and has been formed.
"We have a policy in place that all of our law enforcement officers can now operate within to allow them to work harmoniously," Denny said.
Denny urged luncheon attendees to review Harvey County's active shooter policy to be aware of how agencies would respond to an incident and to consider adopting it in their own entities.
"The policy that we have drafted is a template — an active killer template — that anybody can apply to their place of work, house of worship, their school or hospital," Denny said.
A need to select and employ a curriculum to educate the public on how to deal with active killers was also identified by Harvey County Emergency Management.
Denny noted it takes an average of four to six minutes for first responders to arrive on scene during and active shooter incident.
"You can't wait four to six minutes for law enforcement to get there and neutralize that threat," Denny said. "You are going to have to put yourself in the position of a first responder and take action."
Harvey County Sheriff's Office Deputy Brandon Huntley explained active shooter incidents are quick, violent, and have the goal of creating a high body count.
"People need to know the response options they have," Huntley said.
Structural changes can harden targets by restricting entrances and adding exits, but those changes are costly and less effective than training individuals, Huntley noted.
Harvey County Emergency Management selected ALICE — which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate — to train civilians in proactive active shooter response techniques and strategies.
ALICE gives individuals options for different settings, including barricading, evacuation and countering tactics.
"As soon as you increase resistance to an active killer, the statistics drastically increase for you to survive the event," Huntley said.
Harvey County has 48 certified ALICE instructors who provide free training to organizations.
"You can tap into the ALICE curriculum through any law enforcement office that responds to your area," Denny said.
Newton USD 373 school board member Carol Sue Stayrook-Hobbs noted the school's administrators, educators and other personnel have undergone ALICE training.
"We can't get 100 percent trained because of turnover in staff, but our goal is 95, 98 percent of all personnel to be trained," Stayrook-Hobbs said.
In the near future, meetings with parents of students in Newton schools will be held to inform them of how ALICE will be presented to their children.
"ALICE training will be geared to be appropriate for the age group," Stayrook-Hobbs said. "...We'll do training of all of our children in the district. The goal is to have all children go through ALICE training before the end of the year."
To schedule ALICE training, call Harvey County Emergency Management at 316-284-6910.