One student stabbed and/or injured twenty-two students and staff on April 9th in the hallways of a Pennsylvania high school. Once again, a tragedy played out in the hallways of our schools.
What is troubling to me is the continued media reports of what a “good” thing it was for an injured student to pull the fire alarm. I am sorry, but with no disrespect to this well-intended student, this was not the best thing to do in this situation. It does point out the need for training so this type of action does not occur again.
My concerns are several:
- When the fire alarm is pulled at any school, students and staff respond as they have been trained to do and that is evacuate according to nearest safe exit. This is what happened at Franklin Regional High School. Students and staff then walked into “chaos.” This is the word USA Today used in their story on April 10. This is an example of why Department of Homeland Security’s “Run, Hide, Fight” theory is inappropriate in the preK-12 environment.
- When the fire alarm is pulled at any school, the local fire department is notified. Ask your local fire department what resources they send to a school fire. You will find a school alarm requires their highest level of first response. Certainly the 911 call center in most communities can then notify the fire department of the situation at the school if it is known, but most fire department procedures require a major response until such time as the situation is known for sure. This can not only be dangerous for responding fire fighters but would also add significantly to an already chaotic scene. Firefighters are certainly willing to help law enforcement with any emergency, but it would be beneficial for the fire department to know what type of emergency it is responding to and why.
What Should Schools Do?
- Schools should diversify their drills. (How many times have you read that in this blog?) Schools should practice lockdowns at arrival, dismissal and during lunch.
- We recommend before jumping into these examples of diversified drills that table top exercises be conducted to familiarize staff with their role in protecting students and to work out issues that will naturally arise when this type of drill is conducted.
- Schools cannot only practice when it is convenient to the adults. Emergency situations do not only occur when it is convenient to those impacted by the emergency.
Unfortunately, we cannot always rely on the information provided by the media talking heads who repeat what sounds good at the moment without doing a deeper analysis of the issues and implications of what they are supporting. Sometimes the information they receive is incorrect and what sounds good may not actually be good as a best practice moving forward.
Consultant to National School Safety and Security Services
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