Why so many fire drills?

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Emily Fiala

There were over 200 fires in schools in the state of Colorado during the 2017 school year, according to Kathy Morris, the security and safety coordinator of DHS.  While fires can have devastating consequences, in today’s climate it is equally important to practice other types of protective drills.

As a state-funded public school, DHS is required under the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to conduct a fire drill in the first ten days of the school year, and then once every 30 days after that. This rule has been instituted for over 15 years, and as of right now, is unlikely to change for some time.

“We’re trying to the get the fire codes up at the state-level for all schools in Colorado to be more lenient about it, and they aren’t yet,” said Morris.

Most students have a firm grasp on what to do during a fire situation, yet in lockdown drills, which are more unfamiliar and stressful scenarios, students may not know how to react as well because of the imbalance of practice between fire and lockdown drills.

“There’s a lot of fear and anxiety in lockdowns. Students might not always be in their executive brain thinking clearly, and instead it’s more about panic. That fear process prohibits…what you need to do in an emergency,” said Morris.

There have been over 215,000 victims from gun violence at schools since the Columbine shooting, which occurred in April of 1999, according to the Washington Post. As of 2018, there has been an average of at least one school shooting per week.

“We probably should be doing more lockdowns. Why can’t we do a fire drill one month and a lockdown drill the next month? Why not do two drills a month, one fire and one lockdown?” said Morris.

Even though right now there aren’t many lockdown drills, the district is trying to add improvements to the fire drills so that they seem more realistic and effective.

“We’ve thought of changing it up a little, maybe blocking an exit or moving the evacuation place over to the fairgrounds during a fire drill to give the fire drill a little more life and to be more creative,” said Morris.

Having real-life fire scenarios like these can help students stop and really think about these kind of situations. The administration wants the students to fully understand what’s going on during an incident and execute a responsible plan that will ensure the safety of the student.

“We’re trying to teach K-12 students and staff on what to do if there isn’t a fire or fire drill, but the fire alarm goes off. We want you guys to stop and think, wait for communication, and be ready to go if it’s real,” said Morris.

Staff at DHS think that the administration is doing a good job at making sure students and staff are safe always in every situation.

“I have a lot of confidence in our district. They put in a lot of resources towards studying school safety. I do feel that people have been very mindful and give great attention to details around how do we, to the best of our abilities, keep students safe in this building,” said Tara Haller, a math teacher who has been teaching at DHS for over 20 years.

Some students, on the other hand, think more opposite views.

 

“I think that a real life lockdown is more likely to happen than a massive fire. Just look at the past, serious lockdowns happen more often. I think practicing those more would be more beneficial,” said Fr. Tommy Pope.

All drills are important, whether it’s a fire drill, lockdown drill, shelter, etc. All drills are conducted to make sure students and staff are safe inside the building always, no matter what the situation. In the future, however, it seems that having a more equal balance between all drills would be more beneficial to the school body, and it would certainly provide more stability to those affected by such incidents.