Safety drills test emergency preparedness


Photo by Jona Jancewicz

Freshman Jason Carcamo, Ahrin Letourneau and Brian Tudor participate in the safety training drills. They practiced their severe weather drill, where students must find shelter in hallways with no windows near by.

On Tuesday, Nov. 22, students and teachers participated in a half day schedule of MCPS required safety training to prepare them for the event of a harmful situation within the school or close community.
Staff training took place the previous week to introduce the material that would be taught to students. The content for the staff training was the same slideshow that the students received in Tuesday’s training to eliminate any discrepancies.
An announcement was made the day before the school-wide training by Assistant Principal Jeff Leaman to reinforce the importance of this mandatory training. Some students had already planned to not attend school due to the fact there was no instructional material given in their classes. This was the concern of the administration because many students had already scheduled vacations during the entire week of Thanksgiving.
Each period contained a separate training within the course of roughly 25 minutes, including slideshow presentations, Nearpod lessons and active participation drills.
To start the day off, students watched an MCPS Emergency Preparedness Video to introduce content that would be learned throughout the remainder of the day. In each period, Leaman announced the drill that would be taking place, giving step-by-step guidance for students and teachers to follow.
Students participated in two nearpod lessons named Common Sense Media Lessons. The first lesson (period 2), went over online hate speech and censorship. The second lesson (period 7), discussed the rapid increase in fentanyl laced drugs and the popularity of teenagers taking edibles. These lessons were designed in a self-paced format to ensure students were meeting the learning objectives of each training and tested their knowledge at the end of each lesson.
In periods three, four, five and six students and staff practiced active participation drills such as the Drop, Cover, Hold Drill followed by a Fire Drill, Directed Evacuation Drill, Severe Weather Drill and Lockdown with Options. The Directed Evacuation Drill was new for students as it moves everyone 500 feet from the building, farther than a regular Fire Drill. This drill helps students and staff safely exit the building in the unlikely event of a bomb threat or the release of harmful toxins.
The Lockdown with Options drill was implemented in Maryland following the Safe to Learn Act passed in 2018. Still relatively new to the school system, MCPS required it to be added to the training day, involving multiple new Avoid, Deny, Defend scenarios. Teachers were told to choose any of the three options that they felt most comfortable with to practice with their class.

I do think the drills we do are for the most part important, because you don’t really know when you have an emergency. [So] if something out of the ordinary happens, then you have a plan at least.

— AP Statistics teacher Kevin Parrish

Many students skipped this training day for a variety of reasons. A major reason was that the training day took place on the half-day before Thanksgiving Break. Most classes ended up being nearly empty as a result of the timing.
“Well none of my friends were coming, I heard that not many people were gonna be at school. I think telling the students in advance kind of gave students the impression that it wasn’t going to be as important as it was for students to come to school,” junior Ian Alves said.
Despite the timing challenge that some had with the training day, others showed up in acknowledgement of the importance of the lessons. However, there is seemingly room for improvement to make participation in these important drills more inclusive.
“One thing I wanted to get out of this was obviously to know what to do should something like this happen. If I am being entirely honest [the timing] is probably not the best. I think it would have been better if we dedicated a week to these [drills] in the middle of the school year before any breaks,” senior Kalana Amarasekara said.