Planning for an Emergency Means Thinking on Your Feet


Here is Mr. Stack's latest article for the Sanborn Voice, the student-run newspaper of SRHS

Last month the administration surprised both staff and students by adding a couple curveballs into what otherwise would have been a routine lock-down drill. After the school was placed in lock down, we pulled the fire alarm and waited to see how classes would react. The result was exactly as we had hoped for: Many struggled with whether or not they needed to leave the room or stay put so they read the emergency plan which did not specifically answer their question. So, they were forced to actually think about what the intent of a lock down drill really is. Using some common sense and logic, most people figured out that since they couldn’t smell smoke and they didn’t see any immediate signs of fire, they should stay in their classroom and wait for further instructions.

The question of whether or not to evacuate the classroom brings up a bigger issue of how specific our emergency response plans need to be. When thinking about plans, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower said it best when he wrote “plans are nothing; planning is everything.” An emergency plan itself is nothing if it can’t be adapted or modified to meet a unique situation. Planning for an emergency at our school is something we all need to have a part in, but it goes far beyond just reading and understanding the actual plan itself. It involves each person’s ability to understand their situation, the purpose of the plan, and how to best use the plan to restore safety and order.

I’m someone who learns best by doing. Reading about it or talking about it won’t help me nearly as much as actually experimenting with it. I think many of you feel the same way. That is why in the months ahead, we are going to try to do more drills with different curveballs so that each of you has the chance to practice “thinking on your feet.” This is really the best way to help you really learn and understand what you need to do in the event of an emergency. If you have any suggestions for future “curveballs” you think we should include in upcoming drills, please let me know.

Think of a lock down or fire drill as a formative assessment. Drills are practice. They are meant to inform you (the student) on what you already know and what you don’t know. They inform the school and emergency responders what we do well and what we don’t do well. If we throw you a curveball during a drill, it is ok if you make a mistake. There is a proverb that says “a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” Together we will get better, and together our community will be able to respond to whatever comes our way.

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