Armed Intruder Drills – Why We Need Them

By Katrina Schell, Performing Arts Division Head

Ever since the devastation of Columbine almost nineteen years ago, school safety has drastically increased. Security measures have gone up, more training has been provided to students and teachers, and the school atmosphere has generally become more aware of unthinkable situations. Although it is atrocious, the world we live in and the school we attend is under attack. Although we cannot and should not constantly think about a situation that could arise, it is wise that the school body take reasonable precautions, starting with an armed intruder drill.

Cancelled before break due to inclement weather, LCA’s school shooter drill was rescheduled for Thursday, March 29. This plan was set into motion following the instruction of the Lexington police force and the example of local school districts. Following the rest of the country, this drill was modeled after the FBI’s advice for an armed intruder situation: Run, hide, fight. Going into this and not knowing what it would be like, many of our students approached the drill with a hopeful attitude.

As one high school student comments, “I think it’s good to be prepared because we don’t know what could happen, when it could happen…” When students were asked how they felt about an armed intruder drill, many shared the same opinion. As more situations arise throughout the country, the need for training becomes more vital. An armed intruder drill is the first step in preparing students and staff mentally and physically. However, is the school doing enough? Is one drill enough preparation for a life and death situation?

Many high school students along with our own Mr. Butler agree that one drill will not cut it in our emergency preparedness. As he says, “I don’t find [one drill] productive… my hope is that we do it periodically, maybe quarterly…” Responding to a single situation and a single scenario is not enough to train students how to think. During a life or death situation, our fight or flight response kicks in. In order to stop that reaction, we need to know exactly how to respond, which can only be taught through repetition. One shooter drill will not make a tangible difference. LCA understands the value of repeated practice and has therefore scheduled two more armed intruder drills for this academic year.

Another aspect in emergency preparedness is conversation. The school needs a time where we can work through different situations and ask questions in an informative environment. Acknowledgement and information from teachers will add to the students’ overall feeling of safety and preparedness. Some say they’ve “felt some avoidance” about the topic. Although it is understandable that our thoughts should not constantly be on such a morbid idea, our society does not grant us the luxury of total avoidance.
Despite some students’ wish for more action and discussion, there was a fairly positive mindset entering the drill. Most students supported the decision and regarded this as important training and practice. We were given an overview at assembly that morning, and the day continued as usual. The drill came and went, and student responses afterwards were mixed.

One student that was interviewed felt completely safe in their second floor room. They felt that, had it been a real situation, their teacher and classmates were ready for anything that could happen. However, others had a completely opposite experience.
One student commented, “I did not feel safe… if you poked your head into the window, you could definitely see the teacher.” Many agreed that the location of the classroom plays a key part in the general feeling of safety. Some rooms are bigger, and the positioning of desks and bookshelves provide added security. However, although there were many different experiences of the drill, there was general consensus of its overall effectiveness.

Many felt aspects of the drill were ineffective, stating that it was not an accurate representation of what would actually happen. Some felt that, in an armed intruder situation, we would not just be sitting down and hiding in classrooms. “Rather than being sitting ducks waiting for the attacker to find us, we should break a window and run. Anything is better than waiting.” The students were not allowed to take drastic measures, which is a reasonable limit on a drill, but it would not be realistic during the real thing. Although the second floor was told to hide, many students along with some law enforcement officials question the effectiveness of this choice over running or jumping out of a window.

Another problem in the drill was pointed out by a student in a second floor classroom near a staircase. They said, “Because the doorways aren’t very wide, people got stuck on the stairs.” Since the school has not practiced this drill before, the school body was unable to exit the school swiftly and efficiently. Only repetitive training can cut this response and exit time down, calling for more drills in the future. The two drills already scheduled for this year will help students understand how to safely exit the school.
What was the school hoping to get out of this drill? Many students, even before the drill, were skeptical about how much practicing one time could really help. However, the student body, although many do not feel extremely prepared, recognize the inkling of peace the drill brings. School shootings are no longer a distant problem that will never so much as threaten LCA. Whether we agree or disagree with it, there is a process laid down if the situation should arise.

LCA cares about the safety of its students. We look forward to more future drills in order to better prepare the students and staff alike. In the meantime, we all need to stand together in the face of the tragedies plaguing our country. When these drills come around, it is crucial to approach them genuinely in the hope of being better prepared for any situation that could arise. Take them seriously, but do not fear them. Our major enemy is fear, and we cannot allow that fear to hold onto us. As one student says, “In the face of these disasters happening in the country now, we should all rise together and just not live in fear, but live knowing that we can rise up.”