Desensitized to Violence and Emergency Situations
Students Must Respond to Alarms More Seriously
October 1, 2019
Abington Middle-High School has adopted a threat response system of ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. These steps are suggestions for reacting to emergency situations and can be carried out in any order.
On August 29, around 7:10 AM, an “emergency situation” announcement was broadcast over the intercom throughout the Abington Middle High School. The school was evacuated. It turned out to be a false alarm.
False alarms of one type or another have been called three times so far in two academic school years. One of these was called during homeroom on August 29, 2018. An unplanned fire alarm was called on December 11, 2018, alerting police and fire. Another fire alarm was called during homeroom on October 19, 2018.
During the August 29 false alarm, the building was quickly and efficiently evacuated. Students cleared the building and got across the street quickly. But this was the extent of the success of the students’ response.
After evacuating the building, students were in a big, easily targeted, group. Students did not spread out away from the building but stood just past the sidewalk in the same way they do for a fire drill. The reaction of the student body was too lax, because at that point the students did not know that it was a false alarm. If alarms sound for any reason and are not announced as a planned drill, it is important that students treat them as real.
Mass violence is all too common in the news today. It seems like every week a new mass shooting is in the headlines. It is common to hear of a high school being threatened by a shooter, or other type of emergency. This is in part why threat preparedness is discussed in the classroom and police patrol our schools. This is why our staff trains regularly on school safety and responding to threats of many kinds. This is why our administration has adopted ALICE to teach students and staff when and how to respond to threats of any kind and why our teachers have emergency supplies in their classroom. Students must respond to these alarms with fear and shock because violence is something that does happen in schools.
Although no credible threat was found in the school and students were let back into the building, students did not fully respond as the ALICE training recommends. According to the constant contact email sent out later that morning by superintendent Schafer, the false alarm was caused by “an electrical failure as the students were entering the building.” Gathering outside in a big group goes against our ALICE training which suggests that we hide or go to a separate meeting point.
Any number of things could have been inside of the school building on that day. The assumption that nothing was wrong is a problem. Students cannot become desensitized to the threat level that these alarms indicate. Students need to respond to the situation as an unknown threat, not as a false alarm. Students need to respond to it as an emergency, not as a nuisance.
Let’s not assume that alarms are always false alarms and instead react as if the threats are always real, even if that is unlikely to be true.
Emergency Alarm Goes Off at Abington’s Co-located Middle-High School
Faulty Wiring Causes Students to Evacuate
Prior to classes on August 29 an emergency alert system sounded at the Abington High/Middle School around 7:08 AM. A man’s voice stated that there was a situation inside the building.
Students, faculty, and staff who were in the school filed out onto the front lawn and parking area. A small traffic backup formed since students were instructed not to enter the school and vehicles, including the school buses, were prohibited from entering the school’s front drop off lane.
At 7:23, students, faculty, and staff were directed to return to the building.
When students arrived back into their classrooms, they were told by Dr. Sullivan, principal at AHS, in an announcement over the PA system that the alert was the result of an electrical malfunction and that no threatening event had occurred.
Morning announcements began later than normal, but the rest of the day resumed without any schedule changes.
Cam is a member of the class of 2020 and joined the Green Wave Gazette his sophomore year as a Staff Writer with a special interest in Science and Technology....