Water guns brighten serious problem

Sam Malone

DeKALB | ALICE, a program that teaches participants how to react in an active shooter situation, has expanded to provide public seminars for students, faculty and DeKalb residents.

For the last two years, NIU’s police department has been working to establish ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. The national program aims to build the confidence of its participants when responding to an active shooter.

NIU Police Officer Jason McCauley has led seminars at NIU since the university adopted the program in February 2015. He said that police have been working to expand the program to inform people on the choices they have in active shooter situations.

“We’re focusing a lot more on the students,” McCauley said. “First, we started with staff members, and now we’re doing it where it’s open to the public. So, we’re casting a larger net.”

The NIU police are providing more classes and times like the night seminars, which McCauley said were made available for students’ convenience. The program is offered as a class assignment for students enrolled in UNIV 101 or 202.

The seminar became mandatory this semester for housing staff such as community advisers. More than 130 housing staff members went through training in August.

Sophomore biology major Kortney Maedge said the experience was fun and informative and attended the seminar in August before becoming a community adviser this semester.

“It made me learn a lot about active shooter situations,” Maedge said. “I went into it expecting it to just be a lecture, but I left feeling really surprised and knowing a lot about how to react in active shooter situations.”

McCauley said the NIU police try to make the seminars less intimidating by handling it with a light-hearted tone. Maedge said the seminar is fun because the situations are demonstrated with water guns which is a relaxed way to approach a serious problem.

The seminar is three hours long and begins with a PowerPoint presentation. The first situation is based on participant knowledge of what to do in active shooter situations. From there, the lesson becomes very interactive with participant-led conversation.

“We went through the scenarios, actually acting them out,” Maedge said. “That made me realize how important it is to be proactive in the situation and not just sitting by and hiding somewhere, because that doesn’t work.”

The NIU police try to keep the program as up-to-date and useful as possible, McCauley said. The department does so by taking immediate feedback from participants which is implemented into the program hours after being received.

McCauley said the survey completed by participants after the seminar consistently shows the confidence of participants in how to respond improves.

Attending the seminar was one of her favorite parts of training, Maedge said. She said the seminar is important and students should attend, because they could learn a lot.

“People just believe what they see on television, [which is] called the CSI effect,” McCauley said. “So when they see a person with a gun, they just think back to [the movies] where everyone’s going to die, and that’s just not true. So if you come to our sessions, you’ll understand there are a lot of things you can do [in active shooter situations], and you’re not powerless.”