Gone are the days when we simply had fire drills in school. It was fairly simple to practice walking quickly and quietly out of a building that may be on fire. Now we need to go above and beyond this, just in case a horrific event takes places within our schools. School shootings, community violence, and more are a reality which has shifted what preparedness looks like within schools.
New Drills and More
Within our schools, there are now a variety of different drills that we may go over with our students. For a fire drill, students need to know how to exit each room they are in and where to go outside the building. While the loud noise from the alarm may be unsettling for students with sensory concern, it’s something that can be worked with.
In addition to this, most schools practice lockdown and lock in drills. Protocols are given to teachers and other professionals in the building to share with students. These drills are harder to explain to students because they may not understand the potential danger which would cause them to take place. During a lockdown drill, kids are also forced to be quiet, go into a secure spot away from windows, doors, and wait for word. Imagine how this works for special needs students who may not understand why they are in a dark classroom.
Take this up another level, and you have active shooter drills. Some schools are implementing these drills to make it more real to students in case there is a shooter in their school. They have people running around the building pretending to be a shooter. Everyone is shown more of what to do and what not to do, such as how to potentially fight back and or run from the building.
The Potential Dangers
One of the most important pieces to all drills is open communication. If there will be an active shooter drill, all members of the school community must be aware of this. Students, parents, teachers, and all stakeholders must know why police and other vehicles may be lining the school for a practice. Everyone must be aware of what will take place and school counselors and psychologists must make sure no deceptive practices are included.
The more everyone knows heading into a drill, the less likely the experience will traumatize them. If there will be “pretend” shooters, students need to know. Some may use fake blood, and it needs to be disclosed as well. It’s also important to allow people to have a choice to opt out of an active shooter drill. Some individuals may have life experiences that would make this too traumatic for them to participate in.
Whatever your school does, the most critical part is to work up to different drill types and share what will be happening with those in your school. Has your school completed an active school shooter drill? Please share what experience you have with this in the comments section, along with any other common preparedness exercises and any impact on students in your buildings.