The announcement of “code red” echoes down the hallways as teachers and students in their classrooms take the necessary precautions and wait silently for further instructions. The footsteps of someone outside the door ripple through the silence of the classroom, with each sound and noise being amplified by the unknown danger outside the classroom.
But don’t worry, this is only a drill.
Drills in school have become an essential part of schools’ procedures and preparation, with the current climate of school safety bringing further attention to being prepared for anything. With at least 10 drills, of different varieties, required each year in Oklahoma schools, ensuring each drill provides meaningful preparation for each situation is paramount for schools.
“It’s vital to practice these drills in a way it would actually be,” Jennifer Newell, Oklahoma School Security Institute program manager, said. “They say you play how you practice, and that applies to drills.
“If you can, at the very least, have a game plan and know the procedure it can help tremendously.”
“I don’t think you can do too much,” Derek Hallum, Lone Grove  assistant principal, said. “We realize when people put their kids up here, whether it’s the small children or at the high school, parents believe their kids are safe in school and depend on that.”
Hallum, who schedules the drills throughout the year, said when considering when drills should be done he scatters them throughout different times of the day and different days of the week. He said this allows students to experience drills at different times of the day and allows them to walk through what a situation would be like with different teachers.
“Not every classroom is the same,” he said. “So we ask our teachers to talk to your other classes about ‘had you (students) been in here ,this is what we’d have you do.’”
Hallum said Lone Grove has made security improvements across the board, with two safe rooms planned for the district through the recently passed bond. He said they have also put vinyl numbers of the outside and inside of all rooms in the high school, which would allow emergency responders to know what room they’re needed in and have installed magnetic strips on all doors in the high school that allow teachers to more quickly lock their doors.
“Trying to do the little things,” Hallum said. “We’re not foolproof we know that. You can’t ever do enough there’s always something else.”
Hallum said in order to improve security they have had police and firefighters come into the school and understand the layout of the building.
“I wanted them to come and be in our building and make sure to look down these halls and see how it’s made and look inside some classrooms,” he said. “If we have to call them I want them to really understand and talk to them about their procedures and how they’re going to respond to those events.”
Deputy Chief Kevin Norris, Ardmore Police Department, said the department has worked with schools, and even businesses, in Ardmore to ensure all parties are on the same page in case a situation were to occur.
“We have done drills practicing using their building,” Norris said. “There is a couple of other schools in town that we’ve actually used their buildings to conduct drills with the teachers there.
“We don’t do too many with actual students because it’s pretty realistic. We try to make it as realistic as possible so we know how to react and the teachers know how we’ll react.”
Norris said in order for drills to be effective, they have to be as real as possible and emulate how teachers and responders would need to react in any given situation.
“It’s muscle memory,” Norris said. “If you just throw them into a situation in reality you don’t know if you are going to freeze up or if you’re going to respond. I think the more times you practice and have that muscle memory going on the more apt you are not to freeze up.”
Norris said the more practice schools, and responders get with handling situations the more comfortable they will be if a situation were to arise. He said even with preparation, however, every situation is different and could present factors that have never been practiced or trained for. The unpredictably of dangerous situations only enhances the importance of regular, realistic drills.
“They (drills) will be done in a way that they will practice what they’ve been told and the will do things appropriately,” Hallum said. “I find personally, you know, how important they are that we conduct them in a way that they take them seriously.
“You hope you never need that.”