INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - There is no doubt that most people believe that the first responsibility of a school is the education of its children; however, providing a safe and orderly environment is a necessary component about which not all families and local citizens are aware. Safety at a school, and how we teach and practice it, comes in various forms.
Most of us are familiar with fire drills - the alarm sounds, students exit the room, close the door behind them, and accompanied by their teacher, progress to a predetermined location outside of the building. Teachers and administration take roll and ensure that all persons are present. When the building has been determined to be empty and safe, an announcement is made to return to class.
Washoe County School District requires that this practice continue and be practiced on a monthly basis. At Incline Middle School, the fire drills take place, not only during class, but also during passing periods in order for students to know where to meet and be counted. Should there be an actual fire, repeated practice safeguards that students and staff will know exactly what to do.
However, fire drills are not the only the only emergencies for which we practice. Classrooms have emergency procedures posted for multiple "codes" that may be called and for which we prepare throughout the year.
A Code Red signifies a threat and/or imminent threat on campus. During this time, the school is on a lockdown with all doors and windows locked, all lights off, and all windows covered. Staff and students remain barricaded in the room with the lights out. Only administration and/or emergency responders may lift this code. This drill is usually coordinated annually with the Washoe County School District Police Officer assigned to our schools.
Code Yellow is a preventative lockdown when there is a threat near campus. Doors and windows are locked, but teaching and lessons continue because the threat is not at the school. WCSDPD is also consulted to participate in this type of drill.
When there is a medical emergency on campus, a Code Blue is called. A team of trained staff at the school responds to the emergency to provide care to an unconscious student or staff person until outside help arrives. Our school nurse, clinical aide and the WCSDPD usually assist in planning and carrying out Code Blue drills which will likely include a mock victim complete with "symptoms."
Incline Middle School joined in the Great Nevada Shakeout on Oct. 18 at 10:18 a.m. to rehearse what to do in the event of an earthquake. While a recording complete with earthquake sound effects played over the intercom, students and staff dropped to the floor, got under tables or desks, and held on until the "shaking" subsided. Members of the North Lake Tahoe Fire Department walked throughout the building observing the drill and reported back that staff and students had followed directions well.
These examples do not cover all possible emergencies, but are indicative of the major events for which we try to prepare students and staff. The point of having so many types of drills throughout the year is not to alarm students, but rather to keep them informed. An informed, practiced, and calm population will be a safer population and the schools of WCSD in general, and Incline in particular, work to guarantee this.
Be assured that if you have any questions about the school emergency plans or drills, your school administrator and/or WCSD police officers will be happy to share this information with you.
- Sharon Kennedy is principal of Incline Middle School.