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Performing a facility-wide active shooter drill at a school requires a careful balancing act. Facility managers must make the drill realistic enough that teachers, administrators, law enforcement, and students learn what to do in the horrific case of an actual event. But they can’t make it so realistic that it frightens or disturbs students and teachers.
One school district recently tipped dramatically toward the latter. An unannounced active drill at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, Fla., terrified many of the school’s 2,800 students, according to Today. An announcement notified students of a “Code Red” situation and that it was not a drill. Teachers received a text message that an active shooter was at the school. Students and teachers immediately went into their Code Red procedures, locking and barricading doors.
As it turns out, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office initiated the mass notification message to teachers and administrators using an app called Rave Panic Button. No one at the school was informed of the drill, so everyone assumed the threat was real. Several students suffered asthma attacks and vomited, and at least one passed out. Some students were injured when panic ensued in the school cafeteria.
It took 24 minutes for the school to issue an all-clear signal in the form of its code phrase, “Go Patriots.” A representative from the sheriff’s office says the drill was necessary but that officials failed to let teachers and administrators know in the timely manner that it was actually a drill.
Greg Zimmerman is executive editor of Building Operating Management. Read his cover story on how buildings are tackling climate change.