School safety update: Code red drill coming up soon
By Benjamin Fu
Gargoyle staff reporter
Posted Wednesday, April 18, 2007, The OG, news
[NOTE: In light of the shootings at Virginia Tech earlier this week, we are reprinting this article about Uni's upcoming code red drill, which was originally published on March 14. Late Tuesday afternoon, Assistant Director Sue Kovacs sent an e-mail to students, faculty, and parents addressing questions that had been raised since the shootings. The Virginia Tech tragedy has highlighted the importance of going through with the drill. In the e-mail, she stated: “It is important to be ready and to have talked about possible scenarios. Code Red is designed to give people a chance if something awful happens. Please talk to your students and children about the need to think in similar situations.” The drill will go on as planned within the next few weeks.]
IN RECENT YEARS, after such traumatic incidents as the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., many schools have locked their doors to prevent similar tragedies.
Uni, however, sits on the University of Illinois campus with its doors still open, allowing practically anyone to enter. In order to prepare for problematic situations, Uni is planning to conduct what is known as a “code red” drill.
- Description: A “code red” is defined as an out-of-control incident that is in progress. This could include a fight, an intruder present, or a weapon in the school that has not been located.
- The signal: A 30-second buzzer.
- What to do: Students already in class will be locked into classrooms. First-floor students not assigned to a class will move to the lounge, second-floor students will move to the library, and third- and fourth-floor students will move to the PC lab.
- When: Expect a code red drill later this month or early May.
Examples of these incidents include fights, intruders in the school, and hostage situations. In a code red situation, students and faculty are required to lock their doors immediately (unless ordered to evacuate), stay hidden, and keep anyone from entering or exiting until a clear signal is given.
Because Uni lacks an intercom system, the signal for a code red is a loud 30-second buzzer. The clear signal is simply an administrator unlocking each classroom door.
Since Uni has not updated its code red system for seven years and has not had a drill in the past four years, the administration has decided to conduct a realistic run-through with campus police sometime during this semester. Seniors may have a recollection of the procedure, since the drill was last conducted during the 2002-03 school year.
“Situations at other schools have caused us to realize the need for the drill,” says Assistant Director Sue Kovacs. “We will involve the police to make it more realistic, so it won't be just a walk through this time.”
Students and faculty will know ahead of time when the code red drill will take place. The drill will last for a few minutes, a little longer than the usual fire drills.
Another reason for the drill is that Illinois passed the School Safety Drill Act in 2005, which outlines minimum requirements and standards of practice drills for schools.
Included in the law is the provision (Section 15) that “schools may conduct strongly encouraged law enforcement drills to address and prepare students and school personnel for incidents, including without limitation reverse evacuations, lock-downs, shootings, bomb threats, or hazardous materials.” Even though it is only a suggestion, most schools have followed the advice.
A December article in The News-Gazette discussed various measures that area schools have taken to protect their students. Some schools have implemented a lock able to withstand up to 1,500 pounds of pressure.
In contrast, Uni has retained its open-door policy. There are several reasons for this, according to Director/Principal Kassie Patton.
First, Uni has a campus library, which means it must allow students and faculty from the U of I to come and check out books.
Second, Uni students need to leave the main building to go to Kenney Gym for PE classes, to travel across campus for college courses, and to find a place for lunch. It would be tedious to have someone open the door every time someone went in or out, so there is a practicality issue involved as well.
And finally, while locking doors might increase safety, it also gives a sense of being barred inside.
“It gets to a point where it feels like you are locking yourself in rather than locking other people out,” Patton says.
— Gargoyle column: Reflections on Blacksburg and Virginia Tech
— Gargoyle coverage: The Virginia Tech shootings: Why we need code red drills
— Gargoyle coverage: School safety: Code red drill anticipated for this semester
— Uni Student Handbook: Code red procedures
— Uni Student Handbook: Complete text
— New York Times: Drumbeat of Shots, Broken by Pauses to Reload
— New York Times: Virginia Gunman Identified as a Student