The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Emergency Drills

Emergency drills are a common event in public schools, at least in the United States. I honestly don’t know if they are done in other countries, although I’d assume they are. (I could probably Google the information, but I’d rather leave that for someone else to do.) Regardless, they are something that we have been doing in our schools for an incredibly long time.

I still remember seeing really old videos of emergency drills done in the 1950s for atomic bomb threats. Today it seems almost laughable, but it is important to remember that threat of atomic bombs was very real and very frightening. If you’ve never seen one, here’s an example:

However, the principle of duck-and-cover is still used today. Just not for the threat of atomic bombs. Rather, we use it for severe weather alerts. In our building, students practice severe weather drills each month when the sirens are tested on the first Tuesday of the month at 10:00 am. (An interesting note: if there is severe weather during this time, the sirens will not be tested.)

Other drills we practice are for fires, which require every person in the building to exit in a safe, orderly, rapid manner. We exit the building and walk quickly to the sidewalk along the street. We don’t practice fire drills quite as regularly as we do the severe weather drills, but we do practice them on a regular basis.

Today we practiced a drill that we very rarely practice. It is known as the Code Red emergency. A sad reality of our day and age is that there are individuals in communities who enter schools for the purpose of harming as many people as possible. The reasons for these attacks are varied, and I don’t want to get into them. The important thing is that our students need to know that we will do everything in our power to keep them safe. If a person enters the building and there is an indication of a threat, we will be alerted to a Code Red event. We practiced the drill for this emergency today. The students are to stay in the classroom and keep calm. If necessary, they will get away from the classroom door and windows and get to the safest location in the classroom. If a student is in the hall or the restroom, they are to enter the first classroom they see as quickly as possible.

I am very pleased with how well my students responded to this drill. I explained to them what was going on in advance so that they would be prepared. While waiting for the all-clear signal, we discussed different scenarios in which we may need to use the Code Red emergency. We also discussed where the safe location in the room was and how we could go about getting there. Tomorrow I am going to have my class practice actually moving from their seats to that location just so they have an idea of what it will be like. But I also emphasised time and again that everyone needs to remain calm and take the drill very seriously.

No emergency drill is ever a game. Neither I nor anyone else in the building want to scare the students, but we want them to know what to do in case of an emergency so that we can help keep them as safe as possible. There are real dangers in the world, and part of the job of a teacher is to provide a safe environment for the students to learn and grow. I am glad we decided to practice this drill today. My class has shown a great deal of maturity as we confront some of the more unpleasant aspects of life. I hope we will never have a real-life Code Red emergency, but I also hope that my students know that I and every other teacher really will do all we can to keep them safe in the case such an emergency arises.

And after all, that is what the emergency drills are for. Not just to show that the students know what to do, but that the teachers know what to do, as well.

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