Suggestions for conducting emergency response drills during a pandemic

Kentucky Center for School Safety > News > School Safety News > Suggestions for conducting emergency response drills during a pandemic

State law requires four emergency response drills to be completed during the first 30 school days and again in January: fire, severe weather, earthquake and lockdown.  Many SSCs are seeking advice regarding conducting these drills in light of the rise of infection rates of the Delta variant of Covid in their communities.

Since these drills are mandated…not conducting them is NOT an option. That being said, how the school officials conduct these drills is a local decision. 

The attached document is for your district’s consideration and discussion…these are suggestions not guidelines.

With the of reopening schools during the Covid 19 pandemic, the Kentucky Center for School Safety (KCSS) and the State School Security Marshal’s office are receiving questions regarding conducting state mandated emergency response drills. The following is an advisory for your consideration:

(From the office of Jon Akers)

Conducting State-Mandated School Emergency Response Drills During a Pandemic

  1. State law requires all public schools to conduct (4) emergency response drills during the first (30) days of school when in regular session with students present.  These drills are: Fire, Severe Weather, Lockdown and Earthquake. (KRS158.162(5)
  2. Simply put, once a school begins “in-person instruction” (defined as students being present inside a school building) the state law takes effect immediately and school officials are required to conduct the (4) abovementioned drills within 30 school (instructional) days. This includes any hybrid combinations that involve “in-person” instruction.
  3. The following suggestions are being provided for school officials to consider when returning to “in-person instruction” format during the pandemic.
    • Fire drills – Practice a “blocked” format where each classroom performs this evacuation separately. Students should exit the classroom (as shown on the evacuation map in each classroom) and, spacing 3-feet apart during the drill, proceed to the designated safe zone outside of the school building. After reaching the safe zone, students would return to the building, again staying 3-feet apart. If an actual fire event occurs, the social distancing standard during evacuation may not be possible.  But, even then, after all classes have relocated to their safe zone, maintain social distancing if possible.
      • If this format is used, the principal must ensure that the drill is conducted during the same period of the day until all classes have practiced it.  In addition, in an effort to speed up the process, the principal should consider conducting several classroom evacuations simultaneously provided they are located in different areas of the building and will not cross paths with any other class.  This will take significant planning and coordination, but it can be accomplished.  The principal should accurately record the dates and times that these drills were conducted. 
    • Severe weather drills – Practice in a “blocked” format where each individual classroom performs this evacuation separately. Students should exit the classroom (as shown on the evacuation map in each classroom) and, spacing 3-feet apart, proceed to the designated safe zone inside the building. After reaching the safe zone, the students will assume the safe positions on the floor (3-feet apart for the drill). After the drill has been completed, the students should return to their classroom, keeping 3-feet apart while walking.
      • If this format is used, the principal must ensure that it is conducted during the same period of the day until all classes have practiced it.  In addition, in an effort to speed up the process, the principal should consider conducting several classroom evacuations simultaneously provided they are located in different areas and will not cross paths with any other class.  This will take significant planning and coordination, but it can be accomplished.  The principal should accurately record the dates and times that these drills were conducted. 
    • Lockdown Drills are normally conducted inside the classroom. Following normal lockdown procedures, the students would be moved to a safe location inside the classroom.  If possible, maintain the 3-foot social distancing standard during the drill.  In an actual active shooting event, the 3-foot standard would not be followed.
    • Earthquake Drills are normally conducted in the classroom.  Following normal drop, cover and hold earthquake emergency response protocol, school officials should consider having students to do this in different locations inside the classroom, while maintaining the 6-foot social distancing standard.  In the event of an actual earthquake event, social distancing may not be possible.
  4. The School Safety and Resiliency Act requires that the principal shall discuss the emergency plan with all school staff prior to the first instructional day of each school year and shall document the time and date of any discussion 158.162(2)(d).  Emergency plan information should be provided to existing staff with highlights of any updates or changes to the plan.  New school staff should be provided more comprehensive training on the emergency plan. This training could be provided through a virtual training/meeting format.
  5. Please document dates and times Emergency Response Drills were conducted.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Marshal Ben Wilcox at the State School Security Marshal’s office at 833-591-0214 or Jon Akers, Executive Director for the Kentucky Center for School Safety at 877-805-4277.