Every month, throughout the school year, at Twin Parks Montessori Schools, we practice fire drills. The announcement is made, “Fire Drill, Fire Drill!”: The children line up at the door and the infants are placed in evacuation cribs (the ones with the bigger, sturdy wheels). Teachers carry the classroom emergency backpacks with the attendance sheet inside. Administration conducts sweeps of all the classrooms, bathrooms and hallways to make sure all children are headed to safety outside. We all go outside quietly and line up to be counted at our fire drill meeting place. Our children are accustomed to the drill and they follow the fire drill procedure very well. We are proud that we can get everyone out of the building in just a few minutes.
Another procedure we follow at least once per year is a “Lock Down”. A lock down situation would occur if there was a dangerous situation outside of the school building like a person in the neighborhood with a gun, or a dangerous chemical spill on the street. Every classroom has a designated space away from doors and windows, where the children can sit together quietly. The words teachers say to the students are, “sometimes it is safer to be quietly inside our classrooms.” Teachers lock the classroom doors, put something in front of the door and remain quiet with their students. We practice for 5 minutes, which is a long time for our little ones to remain quiet. The administration’s job is to call 911 and quietly wait out of sight in the office. Once the “all clear” is announced over the loud speaker, student are congratulated for successfully remaining calm and quiet for our practice drill.
We also do a practice Evacuation once per year. This would be useful if there was an emergency situation in our building or neighborhood and we had to relocate to another site. We are fortunate in that we can go to one of our other Twin Parks Montessori School locations if need be. Each school has an evacuation site close by as well. An evacuation is much like a fire drill, although teachers have additional evacuation back packs to carry. These backpacks have food, water, diapers, clothes, blankets, activities, wind-up flashlights, wipes, cups and food for infants.
In an actual emergency situation that requires an evacuation, we would have enough food and water for the children to last for 12 hours. Even if parents had to walk to our schools from Brooklyn, they could do it in 12 hours! The back packs also have all of the emergency information you have given us for your family. We will only release your child to a person that you have given your trust, to care for your child in your place.
These drills are also important to practice at home. If the fire alarm goes off in your home, do you know what to do? What do you want to grab and carry? Do you have an emergency backpack waiting in an easy-to-reach place, with emergency information, change of clothes, wipes, diapers, water, cash? Let your child help you pack an emergency back pack that your child can carry in an emergency. Remember to include emergency telephone numbers.
It is also important to remember to have a contact person outside of the city to be a point of contact for family members who may not be in the same place at the same time. When large-scale emergencies happen, often cell phone towers are overloaded and you cannot get through to others.
Fortunately, we have only had to practice these drills. However, in these times of unfortunate situations, it is wonderful to have a plan in place. Practicing your procedure takes the anxiety out of the situation for you and your child. In addition, you can then function on auto pilot and prevent unnecessary confusion.