Emergency drills get more attention to ensure school safety

Zoe Bodovinitz, Staff Reporter

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In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., the subject of emergency preparedness has surfaced in schools around the country. More effort is being put in to the execution of safety drills and people are paying closer attention to them now more than ever.

The drills themselves aren’t changing. Assistant Principal Makela Steward oversees the School Safety Committee and has noticed a shift in the way people are reacting to drills.
“I take my job seriously when it comes to kids and their safety. I don’t think that I’ve done anything different, I think that people’s awareness is different,” Steward said.

Every year, the school has a quota of drills to complete. Principal Keven Wynkoop plans on keeping the rate of drills the same as it’s always been.

“I will fully admit that because of the attention and thought toward school shootings, it caused us to revisit and rethink some of the details of the drills that maybe we hadn’t gotten to,” Wynkoop said.

One new addition is the reverse evacuation drill. This drill simulates what would happen if a lockdown was called during passing period or lunch, when students are not in class. Students are instructed to go into the nearest classroom during a passing period and to their fourth period class if they are at lunch.

“The reverse evacuation is something straight from Parkland,” Steward said. “It’s the one thing, when I was looking at drill schedules from the past, I’m not sure was done. It should be done every year.”

Lockdown drills are becoming more realistic as well. Instead of being cleared over the intercom, someone from the administration or security has to clear each classroom in person.

“We decided that, since the whole point of a drill is to be prepared and simulate what’s going to happen, instead of just going to the rooms and making sure they were locked and that people were participating, they should actually get cleared that way as opposed to an announcement over the intercom,” Wynkoop said.

Since Parkland, more detail is being put into other aspects of emergency preparedness as well.

The PTSA funded a grant to fill safety buckets with typical First A-id type materials that are supposed to be in every room in the building. Out of almost 100 classrooms and roughly 25 extra rooms, most did not have the proper contents inside the buckets.

The security team plays a pivotal role in making sure everyone at school feels safe.

“[Security has] been trained to help de-escalate situations and be a deterrent in the hallways so that people, especially people that don’t belong here, know that there are physical eyes watching,” Steward said.

At the beginning of March, the Seattle Police Department was called to the school twice over two days in response to reported threats. The phone lines in the office lit up with parents calling, concerned with the safety of their children. This was not the first time the police were at school twice in one week, but with raised awareness surrounding safety in schools, it caused a greater reaction.

“If we hear of a threat, we take it very seriously,” Steward said. “We go down the full gamut of what is supposed to happen and that may include the SPD, which most the time it does, searching and calling parents. We are willing to go down that path if anything looks or seems suspicious.”

The administration and security departments realize that at this time, emergency preparedness procedures need to be reevaluated and student safety needs to be the main focus.

“We want to reassure the parents, the community and the students that we are doing everything in our power to make sure that you feel safe walking in the building,” Steward said. “If you know something or have heard something, say something. We’re definitely going to investigate it, but nonetheless we need you to talk to us.”

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