Ever since the Columbine High School shooting there has been a pit in my stomach. A helpless feeling. A nagging ‘what-if’ sensation that won’t go away.
When news of Columbine first broke, I worked for Partners Mentoring Youth of Estes Park, a local non-profit that matches at-risk youth with an adult volunteer mentor. I was riding in a car with former Chief of Police, Randy Repola, who was also on the Partners Mentoring advisory board. We were on our way to tour a go-kart racing facility that would be the site of our upcoming fundraiser. Violent, ragged and uncertain details dribbled from the car’s radio as we drove down HWY 36.
“Could it happen here?” I asked him.
“Anywhere,” he answered.
Since Columbine there have been many more mass shootings: Virginia Tech, Orlando’s Pulse Night Club, Umpqua Community College, Fort Hood, Aurora, San Bernardino. Too many.
The Monday morning after Sandy Hook, I hugged my children as tight as I could before they boarded the school bus. I wanted to keep them home. Snuggle them. Cocoon them. Forever. But we have to live, and that is the struggle: managing daily life when something horrible could happen anywhere and anytime.
Recently I attended an ALICE Training at YMCA of the Rockies. ALICE is a national program that provides civilians with active shooter response training. It offers tools and preparation to increase the odds of surviving a violent attack.
The instructors included several YMCA of the Rockies staff members, Jim Boyd, Dave Francis, Chris Daubin and Melisa LaFon who work with Officer Curt Plassmeyer of the Estes Park Police Department to offer these courses. The ALICE training encourages participants to leave behind the ‘hide under your desk’ mentality that we were all taught in elementary school. To increase the odds of survival during a violent intruder attack, we learned to follow the steps in the ALICE acronym: A-Alert, L-Lockdown, I-Inform, C-Counter, and E-Evacuate. Depending on the circumstances and location, some steps would be more appropriate than others. During the class, we were given the opportunity to ask questions, discuss previous shootings and their survival rates, build barricades with office equipment, take action and make plans.
Jim Boyd, one the trainers said, “The best part of teaching these trainings is reading the evaluations afterwards. Everyone feels more empowered than they did before the class.”
“We give people tools and options as we encourage them to be active, not passive, ” added Chris Daubin, head of security at YMCA of the Rockies.
I highly recommend attending an ALICE Training, or scheduling one for your business, organization or church. The more people who attend this training, the better prepared this community will be should it ever happen here. To date, nearly 2,000 people in Estes Park and more than a million across the United States have attended an ALICE Training.
The most important lesson I learned in the training, is that while we can’t predict where or when an armed attack might happen, to the best of our ability, we can be prepared.
If you’re interested in attending or hosting ALICE Training in Estes Park, contact Curt Plassmeyer, through the Estes Park Police Department at (970) 586-4000.
Holly Collingwood is a freelance writer and editor. She loves hiking, reading, friends and jelly beans. Previously she worked for Partners Mentoring Youth, Este3s Park Chamber * Resort Association, Home Financial of the Rockies and YMCA of the Rockies.