Old fire drill plan up in flames, new policy ignited

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Old fire drill plan up in flames, new policy ignited

The Southerner

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BY OLIVIA KLEINMAN

An ear-splitting noise echoed throughout the school during advisement on Oct. 10. For some students, it signaled temporary relief from classes. For others, it was a dreaded call for a “pointless” exertion of energy. Grady’s administration, however, did not take the sound of this alarm quite as lightly.

“We need to know procedures in the event of a fire,” Assistant Principal David Propst said. “We have to be ready for an emergency. We have to take every drill seriously.”

A fire marshal observes the actions of administrators during the drill to ensure they follow protocol and take the necessary precautions. Propst said the marshal can fire administrators based on their behavior during the drill.

Returning students and teachers noticed major changes in the evacuation procedure from last year. Propst said the changes were enacted, in part, because of a new rule that requires students to be at least 300 feet away from the school.

According to the new plan, teachers  and students in the Charles Allen building, instructional suites and main gym walk across 10th Street to Piedmont Park where they have individually assigned locations, and teachers and students in the Eighth Street building, black box theater, practice gym, theater and music wing go to the football stadium to their assigned locations.

If a fire drill or emergency evacuation occurs during lunch, students at lunch are to meet up with the teacher of their previous class on Eighth Street. If it occurs during the change between classes, students are to evacuate via the nearest exit and reconnect with the teacher of their previous class outside.

Additionally, teachers must take their class roll book with them during the evacuation. Once teachers reach their spots, they must take attendance, report the number of students present to the administrator at the evacuation site and raise a colored card: red if students are missing or green if all are present. Teachers must remain at the evacuation site with their students until given the “all clear” by an administrator.

“I think teachers did a good job and worked together, but we need a better accountability system,” Propst said. “It took a long time for an administrator to go to each classroom.”

A more organized, less time-consuming solution he suggested was sending a class representative to a point to meet with administrators.

While Communications Academy leader Carrie MacBrien believes the fire drill went well, she said there is always room for improvement.

“We were working two times as hard as we needed to,” MacBrien said. “Dr. Propst and Mr. Howard communicated details very well including maps, evacuation and procedures, so it went smoothly.”

Although MacBrien believes teachers were well-informed regarding the new procedure, senior Tamara Mason believes students were not.

“I didn’t even know the policy changed,” Mason said. “They didn’t tell us anything. I didn’t know about it. I think it would have been more successful if we knew there was a policy change.”

The new plan is being greeted with both criticism and praise from teachers, students and administrators.

“I do think we need to be more organized and systematic,” literature teacher Larry McCurdy said. “This fire drill was a step in the right direction.”

While Mason believes the new plan is safer because students are farther away from the building, she also believes there are drawbacks.

“It is a little bit unrealistic,” Mason said. “If there was an actual fire, the chance of a person actually finding their teacher is slim to none. I didn’t know where my line was; I just happened to be standing in the right line.”

Another problem Propst identified is crossing the street to get to Piedmont Park. Senior Mezmure Dargie, however, does not agree.

“Crossing the street wasn’t as dangerous as everyone made it sound,” Dargie said. “There were security guards.”

Sophomore Crystal Dorta said when it came to crossing streets, the former plan, in which students stood along the side of Eighth Street during evacuations, was worse.

“It was really unorganized and crowded, and everyone was standing in the street when we were on the side of Eighth Street,” Dorta said. “[The new plan] is better because everyone fits in the space, and we aren’t disrupting [households].”

Both Mason and senior Jakara Griffin attribute the disorganized execution of the fire drill to the lack of attention students paid to teachers.

“A group of people were playing duck-duck-goose during the drill,” Mason said.

MacBrien said other options were considered when determining the new policy. She said students could not go to Eighth Street since it is not 300 feet away from the building, nor could they all go to one place.

“It would have caused too much congestion if we were all going to the stadium or all to the park, so I think it was wise to split students between the locations,” she said. “In case of a real disaster, [the new plan] ensures safety by getting farther away from the building.”

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