When I was a kid in elementary school, we had semi-frequent fire drills. The alarm would go off and we would all line up and file outside. We’d patiently wait until the principal told us we could go back inside and once we were back in our classrooms, she would let us know how fast (or slow) the school got outside safely. Because I grew up in an earthquake area, we’d also have earthquake drills when we would crouch under our desks until we got the all clear to come back up.
Kids these days have a whole different set of dangers to prepare for. Yes, they learn how to evacuate the school, but they also learn to prepare for the possibility of school invasion and dangers from people, not just nature.
I was in my second-grader’s classroom this morning, reading a book to my son and his classmates when the assistant principal’s voice came over the intercom telling us that we were in Code Blue. The teacher snapped into action, taping a black piece of paper over the window in the door and going through the instructions for what we should do during the Code Blue and what to do should it turn into a Code Red.
Having been to PTA meetings where these codes were discussed, I knew that a Code Blue means that there is something going on in the neighborhood that doesn’t directly affect the school or maybe the problem is that a teacher can’t find a student. A Code Red is called when there is a direct danger to the school.
When the Code Blue was called, my biggest concern was that I’d be trapped at the school past the time I was supposed to leave to pick up my preschooler.
I finished reading the book and then the assistant principal’s voice came back. Code Red. Hunker down.
The teacher and I closed all the blinds, turned out the lights, made sure the door was locked, and then sat in the dark with the kids lined up against the wall. No one spoke or moved, even when someone in the hall rattled the doorknob and pulled on the door.
I’m going to ease your tension right here by telling you that the Code Red was a drill. They were testing us. But, jeez, it was a little scary. The teacher did a good job of keeping the kids mellow and explaining the whole process before and after, but you could tell that they felt the tension. I have never seen a group of kids be so quiet so fast and so well.
The whole thing made me a little sad for this generation. Never once as a child did I have to prepare for a school invasion by locking doors, closing the blinds, turning out the lights and hiding against the wall.
Turns out that fires and earthquakes aren’t the scariest things after all.
Jean writes about her life at her personal blog, Stimeyland; runs an autism events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont; and writes Autism Unexpected, a column in the Washington Times Communities. You can also find her as @Stimey on Twitter, where she would no doubt have been if the Code Red had been real.