Surprise lockdown tests security protocol


Photo Credit: Colin Morrow

Security has become stricter this past year, forcing all visitors to go to the main office before being allowed in the school

by Colin Morrow, Staff Writer

Since September 11, 2001, more people in our country have died from school shootings than terrorist attacks.

In order to plan for these horrible events, schools across the country have implemented lockdown drills. These drills have been part of the high school’s monthly schedule for over a decade now. Students and teachers have practiced sitting silently in the darkness of a locked classroom so many times that it has become second nature. Students and faculty know what to do once a lockdown is announced over the loudspeaker.

When an unplanned lockdown drill occurs, however, it becomes a little more hectic.

On Thursday, October 8, 2015, Mr. John Arlotta, school principal, stood in the All-Purpose-Room, conducting a session for children in Pathways, an event that links up children with special needs with mentoring high school students. Everything was going according to plan until Arlotta was called to his office, unaware that an unplanned emergency drill was about to take place.

“I was summoned down to the main office and was greeted by a bunch of people from the state Department of Education, Homeland Security, as well as our own police department,” Arlotta said. “That’s when I found out.”

He was told to immediately conduct a lockdown drill so they could observe what actions the school would take when it entered lockdown. Arlotta said that they were not there to evaluate but rather to fix whatever flaws the school may have.

“They spot-check different schools to kind of see how prepared they are and offer some things,” Arlotta said. “They offered some pretty good feedback.”

Perhaps the biggest obstacle that students had to deal with was the timing. The drill occurred about two minutes before class was supposed to end. Some students, who had been let out of class early, found themselves scrambling in the halls to find a nearby classroom to sit in.

Arlotta said that there was no way to avoid passing time and that it is a good time to practice.

“You don’t really want to rehearse it too much because something like that could happen at any time,” he said “You really want to try to just roll with it and see how people react.”

Photo Credit: Colin Morrow
Teachers are the only ones allowed in the building during school hours with their identification.

Some students heard that this drill was unplanned within minutes of the announcement, causing some concern.

“My friend heard that it wasn’t planned,” said Lauren Hanfield, a senior. “She thought that it was real and texted me saying so.”

However, despite some confusion, Arlotta is satisfied with how the drill took place. He said that one of the fixes pointed out were in reference to the classrooms in the science wing.

“One of the things that we realized was that even though the teacher may [lock their doors], the classroom next to it, if there’s nobody in that classroom, is not locked. That’s fine. But our science classes are all linked together. So somebody could sneak into the unoccupied class and go through,” Arlotta said. “I thought that was a real good thing for us to make sure of, that we not only lock the outside door but the inside door so people can not pass through.”

Despite the success of the surprise drill, everyone is still uncertain whether this will occur again this year, or in years to come.

“Honestly, this is my thirty-something year of education. They always tell you that the state is going to pop in, but I’ve never seen it before. It’s a rarity, so it’s very unlikely.”