Locking Down on Lockdown Drills

On April 9, 21 students were stabbed at a high school in Pittsburgh.  That same day, HBA coincidentally conducted a lockdown drill during the school day at both the high school and middle school.

As the announcement for the drill was made, I sat at my desk with a quiz in front of me, happy that it would be briefly postponed. To my surprise, my teacher instructed the class to continue taking the quiz and act as if everything was normal with the exception of being quiet.  The doors were locked as usual, but the lights were left on and we continued to remain in our seats. This then started a debate in my class about how prepared we would be if there was a real lockdown, since we hadn’t practiced going through this one.

Ever since I entered high school, I’ve experienced a handful of lock down drills. In the most of them, my class would continue as usual with the exception of everyone having to be silent. When talking to other students, I discovered that some teachers take a more serious approach to drills, discontinuing class until the drill is over. This brought up two questions for me: What is the actual lockdown procedure and why do some teachers not take it seriously?

According to vice principal Ryan Frontiera, there are two types of lockdown procedures that the school will follow in case of a threat:

If the school is notified in advance of the threat, students will:

1. Proceed quickly and quietly to the gym, only taking essential items with them.

2. Check in with homeroom teacher

  • Freshmen meet by gym stage
  • Sophomores by FCA banner
  • Juniors by Bessie Fleming bleachers
  • Seniors by Pali Highway side bleachers

3. Remain quiet and in designated area.  Turn off cell phones.

If there is an imminent threat on campus, a classroom lockdown will be initiated.

1. If in a classroom, students will:

  • i. Remain in room.  Teacher will lock the doors and close the blinds.
  • ii. Get away from windows and doors.
  • iii. Remain quiet and turn off cell phones.

2. If outside a classroom, students will:

  • i. Head to nearest classroom.
  • ii. Follow procedure

It may not seem like a big deal for most students, but practicing this simple procedure could save lives in a an emergency. It is the teacher’s job to go through the drill procedure regardless of what they have had planned for the day.  Additionally, the teacher should model the right attitude towards drills because students take their cue from them. Especially because the number of mass shootings are rising in the U.S., it would make sense for people to take these practice drills more seriously. I find it a worrying fact that many students don’t know what to do during a lockdown.

The school also administers fire drills each year, which involve the entire school going through evacuation procedures together as a large group.  But when it comes to lockdown drills, because they take place in individual classrooms, it is up to individual teachers to make sure their classes go through the proper procedures.

According to Frontiera, teachers are notified twice of when the drills will be held: once in the beginning of the year and again two to three weeks before the drill.  He acknowledged that the the ten minute drill is an inconvenience to teachers and takes away from class time, but it’s a necessary safety procedure. I’m not asking for much, but I would just like to see teachers take the time to go through proper procedures the next time the school has a drill, regardless of the test or quiz planned for the day.  I also challenge students to respectfully point out to their teachers at appropriate times if procedures are not being followed.  A ten-minute drill could potentially save lives so let’s stop minimizing its importance.

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