Safety Drills Are More Important Now Than Ever

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Police officers participate in an active shooter exercise with emergency workers, teachers and administrators at Oak Knoll School in Cary, Ill., on Sept. 12, 2015. (Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

By ARIANA APOSTOL
Opinion Editor

Earthquake, fire, and lockdown drills can often seem unnecessary and time consuming– but if an actual disaster strikes, can University High School students confidently say that they’re prepared? Although safety drills often give students an excuse to take a pause from schoolwork during an otherwise exhausting school day, the very real risk of disaster makes it crucial that we take these drills seriously.

In lockdown drills, students are asked to remain quiet and stay away from windows and doors in order to remain out of sight of a potential shooter on campus. In the lockdown drill on Thursday, however, this often wasn’t the case. Many teachers  ignored the drill altogether and continued on with class. “[Name removed] told us the lockdown drill was fake, so we just continued on with class,” a senior at UHS commented.

According to the IUSD website, Irvine schools update their Comprehensive Safe School Plans each year, including procedures for both lockdowns and other emergency situations. Teachers at UHS are trained extensively by the Irvine Police Department in preparedness for a potential lockdown in order to ensure that they know how to respond in case of any disaster. Although teachers and staff are required to complete training for disasters by law, it should be no less important for students to actively participate in drills during the school year as well. Fire, earthquake, and lockdown drills are not intended to give students free time to talk to friends and take a break from school work, and drills should be utilized to create as little risk as possible in the event of a disaster.

Mass shootings have become a haunting new normal in America in recent years. According to the Washington Times, there have been  over 140 school shootings in the U.S. since six adults and 20 elementary school students were killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.. In fact, Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach had a lockdown earlier this week when an armed student was found on campus. For these reasons, it is imperative that UHS students are prepared for the worst.

In addition to the risk of a potential gunman on campus, the risk of earthquakes in California also warrants a need for established safety measures to prepare for such a disaster. According to ABC News, there’s a 99.7% chance that an earthquake of a 6.7 magnitude or higher will rock California before 2037. In order to be prepared for such an event, schools should not only stock up on resources, but students should also listen closely to the safety procedures that must be followed  in the event of a disaster.

Surprisingly, fire drills–the most common type of drill– seems to prepare for one of the less dangerous potential disasters. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the last school fire which caused more than ten deaths was way back in 1958. However, the U.S. Fire Administration did report an estimated 4,000 school building fires between 2009 and 2011, so perhaps the lack of fatalities speaks to fire drills and their overall effectiveness when performed seriously and repeatedly.

Drills need to be taken seriously not only to prepare students for  disasters, but also to ensure that disaster preparedness systems are effective and efficient. If students and teachers neglect their responsibilities during a simulated disaster, they will be unable to perform them in a real emergency.

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