Fire, Tornado, Lockdown –

Michigan school safety drill requirements help ensure student safety


Dezeray Meyers

National Center for Education Statistics

Fire, tornado, and lockdown drills are a part of the public school safety training.
Each drill has its own requirements from the state law that a school must follow. According to the Michigan Legislature, a minimum of five fire drills are required for any school that contains grades K-12. Three of the drills must be held before December 1 with the last two being held in the remaining part of the school year. The interval between each drill must be reasonable.
The main protection from a fire is exiting the burning building as quickly as possible. It is important for each building to have a safe evacuation plan that is practiced during drills.
“Directions to meet at a predesigned location away from the building to be free from danger and to have an account for students, teachers, employees and faculty,” Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said on their website.
Every person in the building must quickly exit and be accounted for. A plan must also be in place to make sure all staff and students are away from any danger. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs mentioned that the predesigned location should be clear of fire lanes and any other areas that may be used by the fire department or any other emergency vehicles.
While tornado drills have less requirements as fire drills, they are still an important part of school safety. A minimum of two tornado drills must be held in a single school year and at least one has to take place in March.
“In order for a school to be proactive in tornado preparedness,” Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said on their website. “School officials must conduct tornado shelter drills in accordance with Michigan law.”
Tornado drills require student and staff participation. At Roosevelt High School, students sit facing the lockers with their hands above their head.
“Each classroom has an assigned area, generally they’re around the interior part of the building away from windows and we get students seated and facing the wall and try to get them quiet so we can communicate any information,” Principal Ben Reynolds said. “But it’s really just the practice of getting to that location, getting seated and quieting down for further directions.”
The last drill that is mandatory in the state of Michigan is a lockdown drill. Lockdown drills have to have a minimum of three drills. During a lockdown drill, the door is locked by a staff member and business continues as usual until the drill is completed. One has to be held before December 1 and another has to be held after January 1. The final one can be placed wherever it can fit with reasonable space in between each one. This drill shall include security measures that are appropriate to the emergency at hand.
Roosevelt High School also practices ALICE training drills. These drills are meant to prepare students from any active shooter. Assistant principal Patrick Hickey mentioned Roosevelt’s last ALICE training was two years ago due to COVID.
“We’ll be retraining teachers, having a parent meeting, and then we will teach the students and then we’re going to have an actual drill,” Hickey said.
He stated that the plans for this drill had been in place before the Oxford tragedy, but a lot of information has been undecided. The training for the students will start with a lecture about the meaning and importance of ALICE soon followed by an actual drill. The drill will be treated as if an intruder has entered the building.
“If there’s an intruder what we do is like barricade the doors, you know, preparing to distract… if somebody gets in the classroom and things like that,” Hickey said.
Hickey was asked if these drills would be practiced as much as other drills. He mentioned the mental strain that this drill could put on a student.
Several articles have stated the mental strain students go through during the practice of these drills. After the Oxford tragedy, many students have stated feeling on edge and nervous to come to school.
According to The Detroit News, staff should be trained to recognize trauma reactions. Drills are meant to teach students how to react in those situations, but they do not teach how to cope with emotions when these events occur.
“Brock, the school psychologist, reportedly says that teaching such tactics may cause unnecessary anxiety and stress for students, especially young kids who are more easily traumatized,” Brock said in an article written by National School Safety and Services.
Overall, these drills are set in place to ensure safety for staff and students throughout the state of Michigan.