by Andrew Madanjian
A fundamental goal of every high school is to ensure the safety of all students. Preparing all members of the student body and faculty is an important step in achieving that secure environment if the worst should happen.
Lockdown drills are one way schools practice what should be done in case of an emergency. The reason for entering a lockdown ranges from an oil tanker tipping over near the building to an armed intruder entering the building. Lockdowns involve securing each room with all students tucked away from each entry way into the room.
Principal Joseph Finigan discussed the procedure for lockdown drills during an assembly on January 14, the first major effort this year to educate the student body on what is to be done in case of an emergency. Finigan explains the importance of lockdown drills in ensuring the safety of all students and faculty at the high school.
“It’s just like a fire drill. We want everyone to be familiar with the procedure so nothing’s new. If we were to go into a lockdown, everyone would be prepared and have some knowledge about what to do and where to go,” said Finigan.
Much of the responsibility for guaranteeing a successful fire drill lies with the students themselves. Students are expected to remain quiet and refrain from using their cell phones during lockdowns, even if it is just a drill. Some are wary if students are up to the task of following all of the rules during a lockdown drill.
Senior Nick Dalton suspects that students may be tempted to take advantage of the disrupted class time.
"We're not ready at all in my opinion. I feel that the majority of people would sit and chat during a drill," said Dalton.
However, administrators who have experienced lockdown drills before are confident that students understand the gravity of the situation and may behave appropriately during the drill.
“I’ve experienced lockdown drills in the past, and the ones that I’ve experienced in the past, kids have taken it very seriously. I was pleased with the reaction of the kids during the assembly, I wasn’t surprised that they were listening,” said Finigan. “It’s a serious situation, and we can’t let the possibility of kids joking or something like that stop us from getting to the heart of the matter.”
Although the students are now familiar with what to do and where to go during a lockdown drill, some are unsure how students may react if it were real and not practice.
Sophomore Jenny Lee doubts that students would remain calm in the event of a real lockdown.
"The school is absolutely not ready. You'd think everyone would just run around the school crazy or just be crying. But, I don't think a drill would be taken that seriously. People would be talking or at least whispering. If people know it's a drill, they won't take it dead serious," said Lee.
Senior Catherine Cooper concurs, seeing the possibility for students’ nerves interfering with proper lockdown procedure.
"I feel like the procedure is really simple, but if anything were to happen, people would be scared and not know what to do in the moment," said Cooper.
The school-wide lockdown drill helped to familiarize all students and faculty of what to expect in the event of an actual emergency. However, knowing that it was a drill may have prevented the drill from being regarded seriously by the student body. Spanish teacher Katelyn Nickerson commented on how her class performed during the practice.
“I think because we all knew it wasn’t the real thing, there wasn’t a sense of urgency to be silent. We know what we have to do, it’s good to practice in case something really did happen. I don’t think it’s a fool-proof method, but it’s good to know the procedure in case there was something that happened,” said Nickerson.
The recent, tragic shooting in Connecticut reminded all schools that the readiness is all. Preparedness can hopefully keep everyone in the high school safe in the case of an emergency.
“It’s important in light of all those tragedies. It’s the most horrific thing we could imagine. It’s been something we’ve been discussing in the school district for a fair amount of time, but now the best advice is that everyone should get one in. It’s not reactionary to that, but it is the reminder that a drill is something that should get done,” said Finigan.
A new method of how to respond to lockdown situations where an armed intruder enters the school is known as Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate, or ALICE training. This controversial program has students enter a lockdown, but also trains students and teachers to fight back by hurling objects at intruders in order to distract them. Another part of ALICE training involves evacuating the areas of the school which are isolated or far enough away from where the intruder is located in the building.
“Will we get there? I think that’s definitely in the realm of possibility. With the lockdown procedure that we do with the cards and everything, it’s very much the same procedure that they do in all the surrounding towns. If you had a police response group, even though it’s a different building, their procedure is the same here as it is in other towns,” said Finigan.
Whatever method is used, it is imperative that each high school is familiar with their own practices to ensure the safety of all.