You are here

Planning for the Worst-Case Scenarios Helps Us Feel Safe


Planning for the worst-case scenario (bear attacks included) helps me fall asleep.

...if our house caught on fire, we’d use the ladder and hook it on the window...

...if someone bad came in the window to attack us, I’d use the lamp to fight him, wrapping the cord around his neck...

It’s not so different in our schools.

We feel safer knowing we are prepared, that our schools have done everything to keep children and adults safe, that they are completely ready for any worse-case scenarios, scenarios that probably won’t happen but just in case, won't take schools by surprise.

I'm an elementary teacher from Colorado. The Columbine shooting happened ten miles away from my fifth grade classroom. After that day of evil and violence, security changed immediately for my school and schools everywhere.

We started keeping all the doors locked except for the short window of student arrival time in the morning.  

We had automatic alarms that magnetically closed all classroom the doors, locking us IN our classrooms.

We added an emergency drill – not for fire, not for tornado, but for a lockdown.

That was in 1999. 

Now, in 2012, more schools consistently practice safety drills, drills that are situation dependent. For example, when the safety is compromised inside the drill is an evacuation of the building, but when the outside area is unsafe, the drill is for a lockdown inside the building. 

Illinois requires schools practice a minimum of one law enforcement drill to prepare for “incidents including reverse evacuations, lockdown, shootings, bomb threats and hazardous materials.”

The State of New Jersey requires schools to practice a safety drill within the first 15 days of school with two minimum each year to prepare for an active shooter, evacuation, bomb threat, and lockdown. 

Read your state’s safety drill guidelines on the National Association of State Boards of Education website.

Safety drills don’t take long but they do prepare the students, teachers, and staff. It gives everyone the knowledge that if an emergency happens, they don’t panic, they know what to do. 

If you don’t know your school’s emergency procedure and if it’s practiced, ask.

The National School Safety & Security Services website says plans should address “procedures such as lockdowns, evacuations, parent-student reunification procedures, mobilizing school transportation during the school day, emergency communications protocols with parents and the media, and mobilizing mental health services.” 

ABC News reports that safety officials don’t agree on what specifically should be practiced in a situation like at Sandy Hook elementary. However, safety expert, Ken Trump, believes the teachers at Sandy Hook did everything they could to protect their students. This same article says that SWAT officer Greg Crane and founder of safety program, ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) feels that teachers need to be trained to not passively wait for help but to actively improvise like the Sandy Hook first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig who hid her students in the bathroom and barricaded the door with a bookshelf, or music teacher Maryrose Kristopik who locked her students in the closet and barricaded the door.

We will never get over what happened at Sandy Hook to the lives of innocent children and brave adults. But together we will do everything we can to make sure our schools are safe now and always.