MASON CITY | Mason City High School Associate Principal Dan Arjes was in a bind Friday afternoon.

Teachers Mary Alexander and Ellen Alexander were latched onto his arms. Principal Dan Long sitting on the floor with a firm grip on his left leg. Jeremy White, a teacher, held firmly to his right leg. 

It was a part of district-wide ALICE training, a safety training that teaches response techniques for dealing with intruders.

Looking at Arjes, police officer Jeremy Ryal issued a challenge.

"If you can walk out that door, these guys will buy you supper tonight at Northwestern Steakhouse," he said. 

Arjes struggled mightily, but barely made it a step before crumpling to the ground under the combined effort of his foes.

Which was exactly what Ryal expected to happen.

"It only takes four people to take somebody down and stabilize them on the ground so they can no longer do anything," he said. 

This is the first year Mason City School District employees are undergoing ALICE training, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.

It preaches a proactive approach to an armed intruder, empowering participants to think of multiple ways to get away from or stop an intruder. 

The ALICE system urges people on the lookout for dangerous situations and then alert and inform others of the situation so they also can respond quickly. Everyone should be ready to use a variety of methods to respond to the threat. 

Although that might mean working together to take down an intruder, as was demonstrated Friday, it also could mean helping students climb out a classroom window or sending the class running out a back door. 

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Ryal, one of three police officers instructing the class, said that's a significant change from long-held idea that locking down, or sheltering in place and waiting for police to arrive, was the best way for schools to deal with threats. 

"They key with ALICE is that it meets the need to have multiple response options, not a single mandated response," he said. "That's how the program is designed to increase survivability.

"When you tell somebody that the only option they have is to shelter in place or lock down, it doesn't meet the need for dealing with this type of attack."

Five hundred staffers in the district will undergo ALICE training this year. 

All will participate in online training, pass a quiz and participate in a question-and-answer session similar to what Ryal held Friday at Mason City High School. 

They'll practice the techniques in a role-playing situation, with some acting as the shooter and others trying to find ways to stop them. 

The Globe Gazette was not allowed to photograph a simulation held Friday.

Mason City Community Schools Superintendent Mike Penca said the ALICE philosophy that staff is learning this year more intensive than the earlier trainings. 

It's being conducted as part of an ongoing process to audit and review the district's emergency preparedness policies.

"It kind of fits into our bigger (effort of) just reviewing things to make sure we're prepared for all kinds of emergencies," Penca said. 

Openly talking about the possibility of a mass killing at a school can be uncomfortable, but is a necessary part of being prepared, said Ryal. 

The reality is, these things do happen. 

"In order to have that ability to respond, we do have to think about it," he said. "We do have to talk about it even though it's something that we hope will never happen."

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