VIP Focus: School Drills—More Than Going Through the Motions

DashBoard, May 10, 2017

Navigate Prepared

The way to put a safety plan into action is through drills. As we know, the state of Michigan has specific requirements as to the type, quantity and timing of drills throughout the school year. The number of drills required is plentiful and scheduling and planning them can be challenging. However, the purpose of the drills is to practice your plan to ensure the procedures on paper actually work in a real emergency.

Both Ohio and Tennessee were recently “featured” in regional news stories underscoring the lack of adherence to drill requirements. Perhaps part of the problem is administrators, staff and students feel like drills are ineffective because they’re all just going through the motions. Maybe everyone believes they have been through “enough” drills.

Prompting Staff to Think on Their Feet

During an actual crisis, emotion sets in and stress levels are high. Routine is key to emergency response, but staff and students also need to think on their feet. People in a crisis often fail to perform seemingly simple tasks like evacuating a building, implementing a lockdown, calling 911, protecting themselves or notifying the main office when it would be clear to any rational person that action should be taken. This is why it’s time for a new approach.

This spring, we worked with schools in three states to host our Safety Summit so Michael Dorn, Executive Director of Safe Havens International, could share his approach to breaking through drill fatigue. Mr. Dorn presented an array of audio and video scenarios used to initiate drills that could be used for tabletop discussions.

In addition to audio or video scenarios, a drill deck of cards gives a principal the option to hand a scenario card to a staff member for them to respond to. For example, a card may say, “You glance out the window and notice three suspicious-looking people walking toward the building. As they get closer, you see they all have weapons. GO!” Now it is up to the teacher to follow the correct procedures for securing students and notifying the office and/or emergency agencies. These scenarios are designed to put a drill into context and give staff the opportunity to practice initiating the protocols for a given situation.

Some schools are doing this by running drills during lunch or blocking an exit, thus forcing students and staff to think on their feet. When such tactics are combined with the use of drill scenarios, we can conjure up some of the emotion and adrenalin present during an actual emergency.

Enhance Your Own Drills

If you are interested in incorporating such tactics into your own school safety program, you can request your free scenario drill deck and audio drill scenarios by visiting the NaviGate website. We will also keep you posted on upcoming Safety Summit events.

For more information, visit or call 866.861.7400.

VIP Focus articles are company-sponsored advertisements and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of MASB. It’s intended to provide Very Important Partners with a space to share information of value to you and your district.

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