As a school teacher, there are MANY different drills that we have to practice so that in the event the disasters actually happen, we are prepared to help keep the students, and ourselves, as safe as possible. The most common drills, such as fire and earthquake drills, are those that I have practiced throughout my life starting in elementary school.
These days, the type of drills we practice each month has skyrocketed. Some of these include, Lockdown, Shelter in Place, Evacuation, and Active Shooter.
For those who may not know what these are, the Shelter-in-Place Drill is a plan that protects students and staff in the event of potential exposure to a dangerous chemical that could be released through:
- an industrial accident
- a chemical spill
- a break in a natural gas pipeline
- materials transported through our community
- a terrorist attack
A Lockdown Drill occurs when there is a threat or potential threat to staff or student safety in the area. Most often, this is due to police activity unrelated to the school, but in the vicinity. In a lockdown, the school is closed to all visitors, and students are supervised indoors.
Last year our school practiced its first off-campus Evacuation Drill, where we all filed out, in one very long line, and walked down the street to the local fire house.
One drill that hasn't been practiced at the school I'm currently at, is the Active Shooter Drill. The purpose of this drill is clearly in the title, and with school violence increasing, this is a frightening, but necessary drill to practice. The idea behind this drill is to run, hide, or fight, based on your situation when the drill begins.
Our school is set up with a phone app which every staff member is connected to. During each drill, we keep in touch with each other through texting, letting each other know when each teacher and class is safe, if anyone is missing, etc.
After our staff meeting Friday, I found out by accident that our principal was about to administer our first Armed Intruder Drill. There were staff children still in the building, and they had to be removed since we aren't ready to practice this with students in the building. Since I was free to go after the staff meeting, I almost left.
One thing to note before I continue. Our school is not very big. It's all on one level, making it far more challenging to run away without becoming a victim. With that in mind, here's what happened next.
Suddenly our principal comes over the speaker telling us there was an active shooter in the building, and to run, hide, fight. I was with two other staff members. We didn't know where the "intruder" was coming from, so we couldn't RUN. Instead, we closed our window blinds, pulled up the magnet from our classroom door so that the door was now locked, and turned off the lights. We decided to HIDE behind the main teacher desk. Strange, loud sounds came next. It wasn't music, and it wasn't anyone yelling, it was just scary. It began to feel very real. We knew the "intruder" was closing in on us since the sounds were getting louder, and were prepared to throw anything we could at him. Periodically, I looked at my phone app and discovered that staff members were actually making it out of the building, which surprised me. Others were texting that after throwing things at the "intruder", he backed away and left. Since we were as armed as we could be, we were hoping it would be enough.
And then it happened. The "intruder" unlocked the classroom door. I figured that was going to happen. I didn't realize it was going to be so easy. He flipped the light switch on, which left us temporarily disoriented, and began throwing stuffed animals at us; the drill's equivalent to actual gun fire, or some other type of weapon. We threw what we could at him, our version of FIGHT. It was really just a stapler, water bottle, and a few other COMPLETELY pointless items and then he left. I'm pretty sure that had this been real, we would've been dead.
I couldn't believe how scared I was. My heart was POUNDING. The "intruder" was dressed in full riot gear, and he was wearing a helmet that reminded me of the one Ant Man wears.
Once he left our classroom, we didn't know which direction he went. We decided to try and RUN. By this time, our adrenaline had kicked into high gear, and we ran towards the nearest exit. To our dismay, the doors were LOCKED, which we didn't expect at all! We probably could've run to the next set of doors, but that would've put us back into the hallway where the "intruder" was. Hiding in the bathroom was our next best choice. We turned off the lights, each got into a stall, locked it, and stood up on the toilet, like this:
A few minutes later, we heard the "intruder" coming AGAIN! We figured we'd be safer in the bathroom since he'd already been down that hallway. We were wrong! The lights were turned on again. I seriously thought I was going to have a heart attack. The "intruder" grabbed the door of the stall I was in and began violently shaking it. I managed to not pee my pants while standing ON TOP OF the toilet seat! Then suddenly, more stuffed animals were being thrown into the stalls, and one of them landed in mine. Once again, I would've been dead. After he left, and we were no longer hearing the sounds, we decided that we were done with the drill and walked back to the main office. We'd also died twice already, so we were finished trying!
The "intruder" was up there, with his helmet off. I went up to him, with a smile on my face, and told him that he wasn't very nice! I also informed him that had I known he was in full riot gear, I would've slammed a chair into his face when he first came into our classroom!! I didn't want to hurt an innocent person, but man, that would've been awesome to try!!
I learned many things from this drill:
- instead of hiding behind the teachers desk, standing by the classroom door with a chair ready to hit him when he walked in would've been MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE! Again, had I known he was in full gear, this would've happened. Whoever was in the room with me would've been armed with something MUCH MORE likely to hurt the "intruder" and help keep us alive.
- The RUN option is first for a reason. We were sitting ducks in the classroom. We had no idea where he was, but if we had, we would've kept running until we found an open door.
- Adrenaline isn't always a good thing. It was very difficult to make smart choices while my heart was basically in my ears! I don't think this would change though, had it been real.
-I'm much more aware of where I should run, if this drill were to happen again...or if it was actually happening.
- I'm grateful the students weren't there for this. There were staff members who genuinely lost control of their emotions. Even though we knew it was a drill, it FELT SO REAL. Some hadn't heard the last part about it being the RUN, HIDE, FIGHT and weren't expecting anyone to barge into their classroom.
-It turns out that most of the staff "died" during this drill. It really puts things into perspective when you realize how quickly life can change.
-I don't feel nearly as safe inside my classroom as I did before that drill. I also believe that we need more training about how to properly handle this, should it ever actually happen.
I'm hoping that there is some sort of school-wide debriefing, and that the gentleman who was the "intruder" leads that debriefing. I want to know what we did wrong, and how we can fix it in the future. Tips are always welcome! It turns out that he works for the National Guard, and does this type of drill often.