BUCKHANNON —A Buckhannon Police Department officer showed up at the Buckhannon Rotary Club’s regular meeting Tuesday.
But no one was in trouble with the law – Cpl. Nick Caynor was simply there to teach Rotarians about the ALICE program, which essentially teaches people how to defend themselves in the case of an active shooter entering a public building.
Caynor has been an officer with the BPD since 2007, and previously had a military career in which he served as an Army staff sergeant, heavy weapons specialist, drill sergeant and foreign military advisor.
He is currently a police firearms instructor and a members of the Buckhannon SWAT team.
Caynor said the ALICE PROGRAM – an acronym in which “A” stands for “alert,” “L” stands for “lockdown,” “I” stands for “inform,” “C” stands for “counter” and “E” stands for “evacuate” – is “basically a way of teaching people to deal with an active threat, an active shooter.”
“This program is free to anyone who wants it as long as the police department will approve me to teach it,” Caynor said, adding that participants are not asked to purchase or endorse any products.
“If I was to ask you, ‘do you feel that you have a right to defend yourself?’ If I told you that there’s no state or federal law prohibiting you from defending yourself, everyone would agree with me, right?” Caynor asked. “We inherently believe that we have a right to preserve our own lives, and people have a right to preserve our own lives.
“What this program does is teach your kids, teach your church group, teach your organization that you have the ability to fight back,” Caynor continued. “You have the ability to preserve your own life. Even if you’re not armed, you have the ability to preserve your own life if you know what to do.”
Caynor said lockdowns have been taught and utilized in schools and many places of employment for multiple years – but that’s the wrong approach to take when it comes to self-defense.
“The lockdown policy came from 1980s drive-by shooting drills,” Caynor explained. “Lockdown was designed to protect you from an external threat that lasts seconds, not an internal threat. Not something that’s in your building already that could potentially last hours, so we have been teaching our kids wrong. We have been taught wrong.”
Caynor said the ALICE system is designed to teach people that it’s OK to defend themselves.
“You teach kids to run, scream and go to a certain place if something bad is happening,” Caynor said. “Do any of you doubt that your kids could accomplish that? So, if someone comes into their room and there’s 30 kids yelling and screaming and running and getting out of there, we accomplish this.”
Caynor said the approach wasn’t guaranteed to prevent all deaths; however, it helps to mitigate threats.
“This isn’t an end of all violence from active shooters or active threats, but it’s definitely a way to mitigate the numbers that we lose,” he said.
“That’s all it is, is mitigation. If someone comes into your office, comes into your school, comes into your church dead set, can we get that threat mitigated sometimes before they hurt anybody? Yes. But sometimes aren’t there going to be people still hurt and killed. Yes, but it’s mitigation and it’s not setting us up to all sit there and die.”
Caynor recommended, in some instances, throwing something at an active shooter.
“Even if you’re unarmed, you do have the ability to fight back,” he said. “Wing a chair at them, wing a book, that might give you the time you need to run out the other door or to be able to swarm him or to be able to grab him.”
Caynor said the lockdown approach in isolation is “failing.” The ALICE training program takes a couple hours, he added, emphasizing its importance because no area is immune to violence or active shooters.
“If you think you’re not susceptible to the same violence that can happen anywhere, you’re being naïve,” he said.