Safety Tip of the Week: Emergency Drills

This week Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, provides safety tips related to emergency drills. 

Emergency Drill Refresher

It’s the middle of the school year, and all schools in the Olympia School District are actively participating each month in required emergency drills. I thought now would be a great time for a refresher on why emergency drills are so critical.

The Importance of Emergency Drills

Unfortunately, emergency drills may be seen as a nuisance to regularly-scheduled daily activities, but they are paramount to being prepared.

Running an emergency drill is dependent on several factors: the building type, how many people occupy the building, identified potential risks and what kind of emergency is being tested. For example, an earthquake scenario in a one-story elementary school has different variables than a fire in a two-story High School.

Simulating an event is necessary to define the district and site specific disaster plans.

Emergency Drill Checklist

  • Communication channels on radios
  • Escape routes in classrooms
  • Meeting places that are on-site or off-site
  • Emergency lighting and signage
  • Flow of traffic
  • Coordination of emergency teams
  • Audible and visual alerts
  • Emergency equipment
  • Timing and Participation

Another important item to add to the drills are potential “wildcard” scenarios that cover unusual situations. For example,  what happens if construction blocks an exit or if a key person is out sick? Testing the limits of our district plans ensure we can accommodate many variables.

If you are interested in more information, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has all  required emergency drills and relative information listed here.

Refining our district and site-specific emergency plans, and putting them through these tests, are part of the Olympia School District’s overall safety program. A successful drill is dependent on full participation from everyone in the district. Unfortunately, a complacent attitude during drills or allowing drills to become mundane can lead to confusion and risk when a real situation takes place.

Getting Back to Normal

While it’s important for our drills to test the school’s emergency procedures, it is equally important to get everyone back to their normal routines as quickly as possible.

Drills are important, and continued drills help make reactions become second nature and will, in the end, save many lives in the event of a real emergency.

Thanks for everyone’s continued participation as we head into the second half of the 2016-17 school year.