School: “When Fire Alarm Rings, Lock Yourselves In — It Could REALLY be a Shooter”

Readers — We’ve been chronicling the most appalling reactions to the Sandy Hook shooting, but this drill, at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School in Fargo, ND, was actually in place BEFORE Newtown! In fact, the school postponed it till about a week ago: A drill whereby the fire alarm was sounded and teachers were instructed to KEEP THE KIDS INSIDE THE CLASSROOMS and barricade the doors because it COULD be an “intruder,” fiendishly trying to lure children outside, where he could shoot them.  Herewith, I give you the article and let the mom who sent it in take over the fulminating:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I have so much to say but no words. I thought we were keeping the stupid hysteria at bay here in North Dakota, but this takes the cake: “…students and staff are trained not to leave classrooms when fire alarms go off unless they smell smoke, because a real intruder could pull the fire alarm to try to lure people out of classrooms.”

Really? I mean — really? Like this has actually happened A LOT (rather than one time, in 1998), someone pulled the fire alarm “to try to lure people out of classrooms” and then… what? Seriously, fifteen years ago, ONE time, ONE school out of tens of thousands and we’re going to start pushing desks up against doors instead of finding an exit??

We’re teaching our children that a FIRE ALARM isn’t an important enough situation, but that if you venture out in an orderly fashion without actually, you know, smelling a fire, that YOU ARE IN STRANGER DANGER.

What other scenarios play through these youngsters’ heads? If a fire alarm goes off anywhere else — a mall, a church, the grocery store — are they going to panic and hide? Run? Because they’ll be more concerned about someone coming to harm them than actually getting to safety?

They are teaching our children FEAR of EVERYTHING. “Hey, if the alarm goes off, someone might want to hurt you.” Then they don’t tell anyone they’re doing a drill, the alarm goes off, and… it could be The Real Thing, OMG!

Anxiety? Well, NO KIDDING.

I just hope they never have to actually use the fire alarm for a fire, as I fear some children may never get out because of the Intruder Alert Syndrome. Because obviously, NOTHING ever burns at a school.

God help us all. – North Dakota Mom

Remember: A fire alarm means STRANGE DANGER. (Who cares about a little ol' conflagration?)

Remember: A fire alarm means STRANGE DANGER, so stay inside!

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104 Responses to School: “When Fire Alarm Rings, Lock Yourselves In — It Could REALLY be a Shooter”

  1. pentamom February 5, 2013 at 9:13 am #


    That’s a scream of frustration and anger. I have nothing more to say.

  2. Kara Nutt February 5, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Are you kidding me?!?!?! All of this is getting out of hand. I’m really tired of fighting to keep my kid innocent of what happened in Sandy Hook. There is such a low low chance of this happening and I’d rather my child continue to enjoy and look forward to going to school instead of being scared to go.

    I just found out that Sandy Hook was mentioned in an anti-bullying talk last night at Cub Scouts. Thankfully my son wasn’t really listening so he didn’t come home with a bunch of questions. See, we chose to NOT TELL our 5 year old about it. There was no reason for him to know. We don’t know any of those kids and while I prayed for their families and I am saddened by the whole thing, we didn’t see any reason for our son to know. That decision was just ripped out of our hands last night. I’m furious.

    And now this! I fear, as the woman in ND, that the end result of this is going to be charred little bodies found hiding under desks if ever there is a school fire.

  3. lollipoplover February 5, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    It is universally understood that when someone yells fire or pulls the alarm, you exit the structure as quickly as possible. To tell kids otherwise because someone *may* be tricking them is completely nuts. We WANT to condition our kids to get out.

    When my youngest was 3 she pulled the handicapped fire alarm at our elementary school. I was chatting with a mom and just like that she pulled back the panel and set off the alarm…I went to the office(mortified!) to say it was an accident but not before the entire 5th and 6th grade exited the building within a minute.
    We want them to exit and not ignore alarms. Shame on this school.

  4. Emily February 5, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    Wow, this article is a powerful argument for homeschooling.

  5. TaraK February 5, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    Insane! If you are smelling smoke it is too late, the fire is already close, you’ll have to then run through smoke and possible flames to get outside. Um, yeah. Brilliant plan.

  6. Paul R. Welke February 5, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    We all KNOW what’s going to happen next…

    The nuts are going to insist on having TWO alarms where there used to be one. Red for fire, blue for lockdown, each making their own distinct sounds. In fact, if one of them sees this, they’ll likely take my mockery as a serious suggestion.

    I weep for the future.

  7. pentamom February 5, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Paul — then the evil, crafty Town Mass Shooter will just pull the red one instead (insert Snidely Whiplash laugh.)

  8. LisaS February 5, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    As a practical matter, in most schools the walls between the hallways and the classrooms are built to resist fire for at least an hour, more if they’re made of concrete block. But also as a practical matter … we’re talking about events that are so rare that kids have a greater chance of being struck by lightning! And yes, we teach kids to get out of open areas and duck low for lightning (or at least we were taught that – are our kids?) but still …

    My kids (11 & 13) know what happened at Sandy Hook. There was no hiding it from them, partially because I am an NPR addict, partially because they both read the newspaper. They also know that it’s a rare occurrence that isn’t really worth spending a lot of energy worrying about. And while the answer of having guns in schools has been suggested here in Missouri, they are both concerned about that because an intruder alert was once sounded for the father of a friend who wasn’t aware of the sign-in protocols at our school. It was the first thing they both mentioned when they heard the proposal.

    Actually, Paul, if we are going to go this crazy over this, you have a brilliant idea. And modern alarm systems have the capability to do that … supposing that the right person can get to and has the presence of mind to pull the correct alarm.

  9. Loremi February 5, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    This is what happens when you stay put during a real fire. In this case, the promise was not that there was a shooter, but that help was on the way.

  10. Jenn February 5, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    I would pull my children out of this school faster than you can yell FIRE. They are PUTTING these teachers and children in danger. Not to mention the fire fighters that would then have to risk their lives to go in to rescue if it WAS A FIRE!

  11. RobynHeud February 5, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    @Paul, different alarms for different emergencies is not a new (or crazy) idea. I grew up in Michigan and we did fire drills and tornado drills. We knew which one meant hunker down and which one meant get outside (and there are plenty of incidences where ignoring fire alarms has resulted in people dying). In the Navy, we had a GQ alarm, a collision alarm, and a chemical attack alarm. They all sounded distinct from each other and we were trained to respond to them appropriately. To that effect also, I was on the security response team for my ship, and whenever there was a DCTT drill (fire, flooding, etc), we were required to muster as though someone had started the incident as a diversion. It’s not outside the realm of thought, but the worst thing we can do is condition our children (and adults) to ignore alarms that are there to warn us of actual imminent danger.

  12. KJ February 5, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Wow, this is ridiculous.
    After reading this, a “smart” intruder bent on causing harm would pull the fire alarm and set the building on fire while the teachers and students barricade themselves inside a burning building.
    I wonder how the district would explain why children were left in a burning building because of “safety” precautions?

  13. C. S. P. Schofield February 5, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Now, when I was a boy idiocy like this would have resulted in a bunch of parents visiting the school en masse to give the Principle The Word.

    I vaguely remember on twit who was, very briefly, the Principle of the Junior High School. He was An Education Professional and condescendingly told several pairs of parents that the know more about their child’s education than they did or could.

    Evidently nobody had told him that that particular school catered to the children of the faculties of two colleges. The school board was told in no uncertain terms to fire his condescending ass.

    That’s what needs to happen to anyone connected to this stupidity. That, or burning at the stake.

  14. pentamom February 5, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    Different alarms for different emergencies is not a crazy idea, but different alarms for different emergencies because you think that there’s a significant likelihood that a crazed shooter is going to pull a false alarm to fake you out, is.

  15. SKL February 5, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    That’s insane. Children could die over this stupid rule. Have people forgotten the reason we have fire alarms etc. in schools in the first place? How about over 100 little dead bodies at a single funeral?

  16. pentamom February 5, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    “As a practical matter, in most schools the walls between the hallways and the classrooms are built to resist fire for at least an hour, more if they’re made of concrete block. ”

    First, that doesn’t help the people closer to where the fire started. They’ve just been told that when the fire alarm goes, they should hide under their desks. Second, most people die in fires of smoke inhalation. And God forbid the fire should reach the gas furnace while everyone’s contentedly remembering that it takes an hour for the fire to get through the walls to their classroom.

    None of this is likely, but putting people in this situation DELIBERATELY over a false fear is unconscionable. As someone above says, how are they going to explain it if some children die because they were TOLD not to respond to fire alarms properly?

  17. Amanda Matthews February 5, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    If you smell smoke, there is not going to be enough time for YOU to get out, never mind trying to get 30 kids out.

    There’s already a huge problem with kids hiding in their houses during a fire instead of exiting (and dying)… and this school is encouraging that?!?

    I can not believe people are continuing to send their kids to this school. I can not believe teachers are continuing to come to work.

  18. Dave February 5, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Anger over the stupidity of this school’s administration. How do we expect our children to learn when we leave it to people like this to teach them.

  19. Jenn February 5, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    I wonder what their local fire department’s reaction is to this?

  20. Becky February 5, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    Well and heaven knows any strange man, even one dressed as a fireman, trying to help children is likely a pedophile, so definitely don’t exit the building upon seeing him. (Or at least that line of thinking is just as insane! )

    For real though, this is absurd. Do they even do fire drills anymore, or are they automatically lock down drills? Perhaps, like that other school that practiced a lockdown with someone firing off blanks, this school should have a fire drill with someone using a flame thrower in the halls. Then at least it’d be a “real” fire drill.
    I can’t imagine the local fire department approves of this ridiculous policy…

  21. pdxmom February 5, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    I’m reading a book called the black swan which deals with how we have no idea how to account for very improbable events. It is very interesting and very applicable here.

    It talks about our overestimating the risk of events that pretty much won’t happen. The book is MORE about very unlikely events and how we do not account for them, but there’s a part (so far, I haven’t finished it) about how we have no idea how to assess risk.

  22. pentamom February 5, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    BTW, Lisa S., I know you didn’t mean to defend the situation by saying that as a practical matter, the walls are fire-resistant. I’m just saying that doesn’t help, even a tiny bit.

  23. carolyn February 5, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    I wonder what the fire department thinks of this!

  24. Emily February 5, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    When I was in kindergarten, we learned street safety with Elmer the Safety Elephant, who taught us, in song, to look both ways (or all ways) before we crossed the street. We also learned fire safety with Sparky, an anthropomorphized dalmation in a firefighter’s coat and hat. I wonder what animal mascot and motto the schools are going to use to teach the kids about “school shooting” safety? I have three ideas so far:

    TIMMY THE TIMID TURTLE: Hide in your shell, or they’ll blast you to Hell.

    OZZY THE OBSESSIVE OSTRICH: When encountering something you don’t understand, bury your head straight into the sand.

    CAMILLA THE CHAMELEON: When the panic is loud, simply go with the crowd! Just follow the din, and blend in!

  25. Melissa February 5, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    So if I’m the bad guy who’s probably spent months planning my evil attack down to to the last detail then I just have to remember to bring an easily-obtained-at-any-fireworks-stand-smoke-bomb with me to release when I sneak in to pull the fire alarm.

    Yeah that took about 3 seconds to plan a way around.

    Meanwhile – we’re ignore fire alarms for potentially real fires.

  26. Drew February 5, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    The fire department is not going to happy when it hears about this. I’m sure this violates a million building codes; hopefully the fire inspector will set them right.

  27. mollie February 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    I love Emily.

    And: if you smell smoke, you are moments away from asphyxiation.

  28. baby-paramedic February 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    *pulls hair in frustration*

  29. Warren February 5, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    Did everyone miss, in the original article, the teacher telling students it is only a drill, so only put one desk infront of the door, and not all of them like in a real event.

    Fire Alarm goes off, and the kids are supposed to barricade the door with all their desks, until the teacher smells smoke? I am sorry for this, as it is a polite post.


    Thank you and my apologies.

    In the event of a real fire, this practise will cost lives. Not may cost lives. WILL cost lives.

    1. If the fire is not in your room, and you are told to wait for smoke, you have wasted precious minutes.
    2. In most schools that have cinder block construction, the first place you will notice smoke from, is the door, but you have it blocked by 20+ desks.
    3. You finally notice smoke, now you have to clear the desks away, before you can open the door.
    4. Now that you have smelled or seen smoke, you a clearing the desks, while you are dealing with panic, or fear. If the teacher can smell smoke, so can the kids.

    The people that came up with drill, with these practices need to be deemed unfit to perform their duties. Any teacher that went along with these things must be dealt with, for not standing up.

    The only chance the parents of these students have is that there is no real fire, between now and when things change.

  30. NRG February 5, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    If they really believe this sh|t why do they even allow the fire alarms to remain??

  31. Donna February 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    There are no words. I’m tempted to advocate going all Warren on the school – because this is a situation where I think enough angry people would change the idiocy quickly – but I truly wonder if we would get many parents to agree.

    Have humans always had this extreme fear of one terrible situation over another or is this new? Fires and shootings in school are both bad and could lead to many deaths. Fires happen more often, but even if they happened the same, we are willingly putting kids at risk for one to protect against a remote possibility (the pulling of the fire alarm) in another. It is as if our kids dying in a fire is somehow better than our kids dying from being shot by a crazed gunman (which is truly bizarre to me since I would rather die anyway possible other than fire).

  32. Havva February 5, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Oh… My… God!

    They are actually training students to obstruct their primary evacuation route in the event of a fire. There are no words for this…

    @North Dakota Mom… please tell me the second story windows are operable. Have they taught the kids how jump from the second story without breaking a leg?

    You need lots of fire fighters to tell the school district that this is insanity. I’ll try to get people I know to send this to fire fighters they know. It looks like your state had no law on conducting proper fire drills.
    These drills indicate a desperate need for such laws.

  33. Beth February 5, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Hmmm…will there be a consensus model for smelling smoke? I can hear it now.

    Teacher: There’s the fire alarm; does anyone smell smoke?
    Little Johnny: I don’t.
    Little Mikey: I do.
    Teacher: I might smell smoke, but I’m not sure.
    Little Susie: I *think* I do.
    Little Dakota: I for sure don’t.
    Teacher: Damn.

  34. dancing on thin ice February 5, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    I’m curious as to how many school fires there are each year?

    Growing up, a fire alarm meant that some kid wanted some excitement or didn’t study for a test. We expected them each year around May usually on Friday.

    By the time I went to school, they stopped the “Duck & Cover” hide under the desk atomic blast drills.

    Our local Police chief wants specially trained police officers in school, probably to justify a higher budget. Each October he warns of poisoned Halloween candy.

    All examples of Fear Sells

  35. mollie February 5, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    Stop the planet, I want to get off.

  36. Andy February 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    A lady asked me why I insist on home-schooling my kids. I refered her to this article.

  37. lollipoplover February 5, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    And from now on, if you hear someone blaring their car horn at you in traffic, you should NOT look around for the warning that you may cause an accident. Instead, you should ASSUME that they think you are hot stuff and want to abduct you…Continue driving like an asshole.

  38. MrGoalie February 5, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    I actually work at a school where this was practiced only during intruder drills. If during a lockdown the fire alarm went off, students/staff were instructed to stay in the classroom unless a uniformed person told them to evacuate, or the students were in immediate danger. It made sense that in case of a lockdown, students would be drawn out of the classroom by a fire alarm.

  39. Warren February 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    I do not care what security official wants to justify their job, I do not care about the police cheif lying thru his teeth to keep parents quiet. They all have one thing in common, they support lockdowns.


    Our natural instincts when faced with danger, is one of fight or flight. Not hunker down cover our heads and hope for the best.

    Under no circumstances does it make sense to remain in the building, in which the danger is present.

    Get out of the building. I would rather have a teacher tell my kids to get out and run for the trees, or the store, than to keep them in and hope nothing happens.

  40. pentamom February 5, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    “It made sense that in case of a lockdown, students would be drawn out of the classroom by a fire alarm.”

    In that case you, have to weigh the possibilities and make a hard choice — you’re already in trouble.

    But what if the intruder SET A FIRE? You can’t just assume that “lockdown plus fire alarm” means “no fire.” Even if the intruder set a fire to draw people out, sitting there waiting to get asphyxiated or baked isn’t a real good option.

  41. Steve February 5, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    While fires are alway a “possibility” anywhere (like the chance of being abducted), have you ever been in a shopping mall and had to leave because of a fire drill? New Yorkers, have you ever participated in a fire drill in a 40+ story building? How about in your multi-story apartment building?

    Have you ever participated in a fire drill anywhere but a school?

    Are fire drills an exercise from “days gone by” when there were far more chances of serious fires and buildings were made of more combustible materials?

    Yes, you can google school fires and find some, but it would be interesting to see a list of “serious fires” that occurred when school was “in session.”

    Is the chance of a “serious life-threatening school fire” more rare than abduction by a stranger?

  42. Warren February 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    Fire drills were only performed in elementary schools, when I was growing up.
    When I look back now they made sense.
    1. Adult to child ratio way more than out side school. 1 teacher to 20-35 kids.
    2. Most kids are not exposed to fire alarms, outside of school. Thus the school drill prepares them for the apartment building alarm, or rec. complex alarm, or work alarm. It is all part their education and growing up.
    3. Never had them in high school because by then you had been exposed, and should know what to do.

    One or two fire drills, is ok. It also helps to show that in an emergency, you need to remain calm

    By using fire drills, they are conditioning the kids human response mechanism, for more than just fires. For many forms of adversity.

    Lockdowns do not teach anything but hide in a corner and be afraid. Nice lesson to teach kids. Be afraid.

  43. K Virtue February 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    This is just nuts, and acutally dangerous in itself. The panic about school shootings is way out of hand. A person bent on mayhem will find a way despite all our sensible and non-sensical attempts to prevent issues. All these safety ideas did not help the bus driver and children in Georgia. A crazy person will always find a way. Stop living in fear.

  44. oliviacw February 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    My university held fire drills in the dorms at least once a year. Several places that I have worked as an adult (including my current office) have held fire drills. These were ususally larger multistory buildings with few exits, and yes, building management was concerned that people would know the way to get out and where to gather. We had safety captains for different floors or work areas, and when you got out you were supposed to report to them. If anyone was not present at the gathering spot (and it was known that they were in to work that day), then if it had been a real emergency their names would have been given to the emergency responders who would have made it a priority to track down anyone left in the building.

  45. Taradlion February 5, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    @ Steve: I live in NYC. There was a fire in Hoboken in September. It was a “real” fire, during school, 6 firefighters (but no students) were treated and lots of fire damage to the school. There was another fire with lots of smoke/some damage in a Brooklyn high School in November..(there was also very small fire in my kids’ school last year….a little smoke, put out with a fire extinguisher). I would still say, fires in school are rare (there are tons of schools in the NYC area). Like seat belts, fire drills don’t bother me. In a fire, you stay calm and get out. Fire drills allow you to practice. Maybe (probably) you’ll make it through school without there ever being a fire, but fires could happen anywhere and the evacuation skills are the same.

    Lock down drills do bother me. I absolutely do not think crazed gunmen attacks have become common enough that there need to be drills. More importantly, I don’t think you can prepare for what will be the best thing to do Because their school does have drills, I have told my kids all drills are to practice listening to teachers/grown ups. If they tell you to leave, leave. If they tell you to stay in the classroom, stay in the classroom. If they tell you to hide in a cabinet, do that, but lock down drills make me crazy.

    I would go bat sh@t crazy if I knew my kids were being taught to hunker down when they heard a fire alarm. That’s insane.

    Our apartment building had a fire in a restaurant on the first floor last March. It filled with smoke (causing smoke damage throughout) and fire damage to the first and second floors. So, a “real fire”…and people waited until they smelled smoke to leave the building and then were freaked out trying to get through the smokey hallways. I banged on neighbors doors on my way down, while my kids went directly out with my husband and dog. When we got outside (from the 4th floor) I realized my son didn’t have a coat on. He said, “in a fire, you stop for nothing”. His coat was right by the door, but you know what, there is no way I would want him to say, “In a fire, you wait until you smell smoke”

  46. Donna February 5, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    “Have you ever participated in a fire drill anywhere but a school?”

    Yep. My office building in California had one every year. It was an “emergency drill” and earthquakes were probably a more likely scenario that would prompt a building evacuation, but it was the same concept.

  47. Bridget February 5, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    The Jr High School kid in the ladies bathroom had me speechless. This goes beyond speechless. I would yank my kid out of that school so fast…..If I had to home school I would….

    No freaking way!!!!!!!! Wow…just WOW.

  48. Bridget February 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Here in Minnesota, we have a Tornado drill at work every year. The alarm goes off; the lady comes on to remind us that this is just a drill. We proceed to the safe zone and stay there for 10-minutes while the lady keeps reminding us that it is only a drill. At about the 4-minute mark we want to find her and gag her. Then she tells us that it is all over and we go back to work.

    We also have a fire drill once a year. That only lasts about 5-minutes.

  49. mollie February 5, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    I think I’d like to conduct a smack-down drill on this school’s administration.

  50. SKL February 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    To answer an earlier question, yes, in our city at least, office buildings have fire drills. Pretty obnoxious when you’re in the middle of a conference call.

  51. SKL February 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Mollie, I agree with the smack-down drill. Putting children’s lives in danger deserves at least some mandatory punitive training. I hope this at least gets in the local newspaper. This is seriously one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard of a school doing – and that is saying a lot!

  52. curiositykt February 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    we have fire drills at work twice a year. The funny part is that our fire alarm says “An incident has been reported, if we state your floor, please evacuate, otherwise stay in place” and they never say any floors… So if there was a fire (and we’ve had a few small ones) we’d all die because we always mill around wondering if it’s our floor, if we should evacuate or stay in place. We generally eventually reach the consensus to leave.

  53. SKL February 5, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    One of the 9-11 planes was flying toward our city when the passengers made it change course and it went down in PA IIRC. Needless to say we had actual evacuation drills after that.

  54. hineata February 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    @Steve – definitely have participated in fire and other evacuation drills as an adult, on a semi-regular basis. People whine, but as in the case of JP Morgan during 9/11, being conditioned to do things automatically saves lives.

    You want, in certain circumstances, for people to react without thought. We had a week or two of fire drills at one school I was at, and by the end of it we (supposedly sensible) adults were a bit sick of the whole process, so when the alarm went off again during the middle of morning tea we were a bit slack about putting down our coffees and going to get rolls etc. Until someone opened the staffroom door into a corridor filled with smoke!

    Fortunately the kids were so well-conditioned that as we were racing upstairs to get rolls, clear classes etc they were filing steadily down into the quad. No children left upstairs or downstairs. All kids, from five to twelve year olds, found their own class lots and places to stand, and some groups had already taken their own rolls informally before the teacher arrived. Purely conditioning…

    This is what makes what these teachers/administrators are doing so frightening. Conditioning children to ignore fire alarms – bad enough. Conditioning them to actively prevent their own escape – unbelievable!

  55. Brenda Adler February 5, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    Ok, let’s assume that there are situations in which it is perfectly reasonable to lock kids in a classroom to keep them safe. How would one plan to accomplish this:
    1) Pile desks haphasardly in front of the door
    2) purchase some sort of locking/barracade device
    3) purchase a device that allows you to stop people from opening the door from the outside but allows the door from being able to be opened from the inside.

    While considering your choices don’t forget to consider the following:

    Truely piling desks in front of the door is the definiton of “safety theatre”. All you’re doign is making it obvious there are people in the room attempting to hide

    a) What will actually be effective if someone tries to get in
    b) What will be safest if the situation changes and fleeing becomes safer

    If you answered anything other than 1, congrats, you have more deductive logic then the people in charge of teaching logic to children!

  56. Stephanie February 5, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Wow, and I was annoyed when my kids’ school principal refused to evacuate when a fire alarm was pulled during the Christmas performance this year. I can still hardly believe he didn’t get in trouble for that, even though the alarm had been pulled by a curious three year old.

    It was at a place we rented, not on campus, and at the very end of the performance. Every student in the school was on the stage. I really think that was why he didn’t want to evacuate – getting hundreds of kids off that stage with no injuries in a rush would have been difficult, especially with parents wanting to get their kids on their own, not wait for the teachers to lead them out in a more orderly fashion. Still, I don’t think he knew right away that it was a false alarm right away. I think it would have been better if he had asked the parents to set a good example, head out calmly and treat it as a drill, then get their kids. The whole thing unnerved my kids a little because “what if it had been real?”

    Steve, I used to work for the phone company, and they did fire drills.

  57. Warren February 5, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    I can think of very few events that the best course of action would be to keep the students within the confines of the school. Now keep in mind I am thinking of a cinderblock and concrete construction, as that seems to be the norm.

    1. Tornado, but get the kids into the interior hallway, away from windows. Granted this is usually a geographic issue.
    2. A wounded, hungry, rabid Polar Bear is loose on school grounds. Again geographic.
    3. North Korea has dropped paratroopers onto the school grounds.
    4. The principals gay lover is upset and egging the principal’s car. You know a stray piece of eggshell can really cause some damage.
    5. The Romulans and The Klingons have declared war against each other, and decide to fight on earth, as to not hurt their own planets.

    Ok ok, so they are a little far fetched, except the Romulan Klingon War.

    In the event of a twister, the building offers protection. But when the threat is in the building, fire, gas, smoke, or shooter, get the hell out. Even in the event of an earthquake, the building itself can be the threat, so get out.

    Why is this so hard for people in power to understand.

  58. Yan Seiner February 5, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    This is insane. What they’re saying is that it’s better for kids to die in a fire than to face a stranger (maybe with a gun).

    I suspect this will get reversed in short order; the insurance carrier, the fire department, and the local slimeball lawyer will each have a cow, for different reasons.

    Maybe a level headed lawyer can explain to the school administration just what compromising position this leaves them in. A NSFW graphic comes to mind.

  59. tash February 5, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    My daughter (1st grade) has both lock down drills and fire drills at her school. I was there for a lock down once (before Sandy Hook) and the teacher explained that if a scared dog got in the school or a racoon or deer (happened in my middle school) or something that we all needed to go sit on the carpet (a corner they use for story time) and don’t talk. She turned off the lights, covered the windows, locked the door, and then joined us.

    I asked my daughter if they also did fire drills, she said yes they have to go outside in a line and stand by the street in the line.

    I also asked about tornadoes and she said for tornado drills they go into the hall and sit with their hands over their heads.

    So at least at my kids school there are several drills for different situations.

    At her old daycare when she was little I showed up one time to pick her up and they were having a “strange smell” alert (not a drill) it was handled like a fire and everyone had to stand outside. They could not take new kids or release the ones they had until the all clear. It turned out someone had sprayed wasp killer near a vent and it got all over the school.

  60. Sara February 5, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    I’ve always thought of drills partially for teaching kids what they’re to do in any situation. Teaching kids to ignore fire alarms is VERY dangerous. What if they do that at home?

  61. Sarah in WA February 5, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    There has to be a better way, right?

    I used to teach at a low-income elementary school. At least a couple of times a year, some kid would pull the fire alarm out of boredom or for who knows what reason. The school was charged by the fire department for these false alarms, and of course class was interrupted, etc.

    So, a school that was already hard up for funds had to shell out money it couldn’t afford to pay because some kid always had to do something so dumb.

    And seemingly nothing could be done about it. Of course, fire alarms need to be in place. Now, we’ll probably start to see separate alarms as others have mentioned above. It all just costs more and more money. I would never propose jeopardizing safety in the name of saving money, but where do we draw the line as to where “necessary” is?

    Whatever happened to the old-fashioned fire alarms where you had to actually break the glass in order to set it off? Were they considered too much of a liability–someone could sue for getting cut by the glass? I bet they would cut down on the instances of false alarms.

  62. Crystal February 5, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    But wait! The teachers telling the kids to barricade themselves inside the classroom could be conditioning them for sexual abuse!

    Seriously, wouldn’t there be some gigantic lawsuits from parents filed if there were an actual fire that resulted in children’s deaths? And all the school officials could sputter out would be, “But….they thought it was an intruder drill. We told them to stay inside!” Insanity.

  63. Gina February 5, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    OK Lenore. You’ve finally done it. I’m speechless.

  64. Mark February 5, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    When I was in elementary school, one of the ovens in the cafeteria kitchen caught fire. When the fire alarm went off, the teachers knew it wasn’t a scheduled drill, and everyone barricaded the classroom doors in case a gunman was trying to lure us into an ambush. The principal tried to use the intercom to tell everyone to evacuate, but the kitchen shares a wall with the school office, and the intercom wires leading to the second floor had been destroyed by fire. By the time anyone on the second floor knew about the fire, the stairwell and the main entrance were filled with dense smoke. Two students died from injuries suffered while jumping off of second-floor balconies, and another 63 were hospitalized, most due to smoke inhalation.

    Oh, wait. That’s not what happened.

    When the fire alarm went off, we all trotted out to the playground, just like in a drill. The fire department arrived as the first wisps of smoke were coming out the front door. Nobody was injured, and the whole thing merited no more than a brief mention in the local paper.

  65. Art February 5, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    Yes I have to agree, the 1958 Our Lady of Angels Fire was horrific. Kids were jumping from second story windows to escape.

    Part of the reason that so many kids perished in that fire was because the fire alarm was not pulled quickly enough.

    What this school is doing is beyond stupidity.

  66. hineata February 5, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    @Warren – you don’t have earthquakes in Canada, I assume? Anyway, get out after it stops shaking, please…:-).

    As for the North Koreans, surely that depends on how attractive the paratroopers are, and how many women on staff are single (or just out for a good time)? I can think of at least three colleagues of mine who would be quite keen on scoping out what was landing….Come to think of it, that might go for the Klingons and the Romulans as well – some of those Spock types are hot!

  67. hineata February 5, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    Also, where can we get a decent Polar bear for drills? Heck that would make a great disciplinary tool –

    “Chidren, quiet! Hunker down over there and get on with your work ….there is a polar bear outside….”

    “Ha!” Mr eight-year-old, hyper-intelligent superbrat declares. “You can’t fool me, Mrs – . Polar bears are only in the Arctic. We’re in subtropical rainforest, near the Antarctic. So I’m going to go get my ….., and you can’t stop me!You’re not my mother!”

    Exits classroom. Teacher shakes head sadly.

    Seconds later there is a brief scream, followed by gnawing sounds.

    And extremely compliant behaviour for the rest of the day.

  68. Mark Davis February 5, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    That is madness, plain and simple.

  69. Jenn February 5, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    Teachers hate kindergarten registration week because that’s the week that we have daily `fire drills’ thanks to curious three year olds! We always have to evacuate the building and can’t go back in until the all clear from the fire department. We end up getting fined since it is multiple false alarms in a certain period of time but at least we know that our students and staff are as prepared as you can be for a real fire. We are required to do six drills a year and the entire school must be evacuated within a specified amount of time (based on attendance). If we could only combine those six drills with kindergarten registration week!

  70. Trey February 5, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    Idiots. All it would take is one shooter with a couple of molotov cocktails and their bright idea just became a double death trap.

  71. Warren February 5, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    Yes, I meant after the intial quake.

    Need a polar bear, just get any ole bear and bleach em, platimun blonde would fool most. LOL

  72. Jennifer February 5, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    This is pretty much criminally stupid, and unlike some of the reactions is not just going to produce un-needed fear, it could, quite literally, kill students.

    The point of a fire alarm and fire drills is to get students out of the school as fast as possible, in an orderly fashion. If you can smell smoke, it may be too late to get out safely.

    Fires are much, much, much more common that school shootings. Plus, fire alarms may also be pulled for chemical spills, gas leaks and bomb threats, which don’t smell like smoke.

  73. Connie February 5, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    When I was a kid in Catholic school, we had regular fire drills and Our Lady of the Angels was always hanging over us, the nuns used the lessons from it (some stayed in their classrooms) to warn us. In (public) high school one morning we had the fire alarm sound. The teacher told us not to leave because there was no fire drill scheduled (apparently fire alarms are for drills, not real fires) There was a small fire near my classroom and it ended up that we all had to leave through smoke (no one was injured) I heard the same thing when I was working – when the fire alarm sounds people begin to say – there wasn’t a drill scheduled today. I am a little sensitive to all this because when I was 19 a co-worker was killed in a Christmas tree fire.

  74. Betsy February 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Code violation, blocking means of egress.
    I smell a lawsuit.

  75. Inara February 5, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Connie, seriously?! As a teacher, if the fire alarm goes off when there’s no drill scheduled, we treat it as an emergency and get out of there double time!

    And I’m within whomever said that shooter lockdowns are asinine—I think were I in that situation I would get myself and the student out rather than huddling and hoping that we’re not found out.

    Of course when we have been in actual lockdowns, it was because of stray wildlife, or a stray drunk in one instance, and in those cases I think it makes sense.

  76. Peter Watson February 5, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    This is an extreme example of the same sort of thinking that has dead-locked steel grills on domestic doors and windows. You stand a vastly greater chance of being trapped and roasted by your very own ‘safety’ measures than being attacked. Just ask any urban fire fighter what it’s like dealing with the remains. These people are completely insane! Locking people in when a fire alarm goes off would be a lawyer’s field day. Debate would waiver between man slaughter and murder charges. Has anybody pointed out that it may well cancell their insurance? pw

  77. Denise Coscia February 5, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    But but but…how can an intruder get in to the school to set the fire alarm off with all the added extra security they’ve employed? No visitors without appointments, locks on all entrances and exits, cameras etc? The intruder would have to already be in the building to set it off with all those barricades – pretty soon there will be no janitors or teachers and the students will have to educate themselves!

  78. Warren February 6, 2013 at 12:23 am #

    Okay, hold the phone.
    Schools go into lockdown for stray wildlife? Now that is just dumb. Go into lockdown, instead of just using the intercom, to inform teachers there is a deer, or dog in the halls. A full blown lockdown is quite extreme.

    But I guess the one solution for all situations, eliminates the need for anyone to actually think for themselves.

  79. Jenny Islander February 6, 2013 at 3:28 am #

    I didn’t think you would ever find one to top the cop who told parents to make their kids stand next to the gas pump at the gas station in case somebody snatched the car while it was being fueled, noticed kids in the back seat, and thought, “What ho, I’ve never tried a spot of monstrosity before, but here are children, so I shall do terrible things to them before I part out this Datsun!”

    But, yeah, this tops that. By, like, a mile.

  80. Yan Seiner February 6, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    @Warren: Have you ever dealt with a panicked deer? They’re evil, mean, vicious creatures who will kill you if you give them a chance. Bambi, they’re not. A lockdown makes sense to keep the deer from getting panicked and hurting someone.

  81. pentamom February 6, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    Okay, but, sitting on the floor with the lights out and the shades drawn?

    Locking the doors so the panicked animal can’t get into the rooms, check. Keeping the kids fairly quiet so that the animal doesn’t get even more overstimulated, check.

    But what do they think the animal’s going to do if the kids are sitting quietly in their desks with the lights on and the shades open? Open the door so it can get to them?

  82. pentamom February 6, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Jenny, thanks for a great Wednesday morning laugh!

  83. Captain America February 6, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    agree with Peter Watson above.

    re: Alabama case

    I have absolutely no clue—cannot fathom inside my heart, nor calculate with my head—why someone who do this. My best notions for a solution here is (a) evil does exist (we can be sure of this!), OR (b) the guy is psychologically damaged.

  84. Warren February 6, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Really Yan, a lockdown for a deer?
    And yes I am well aware of what different animals can do.

    Remember though, lockdowns suspend classtime, so while the animal roams the halls, kids are in the safe corner or whatever hiding from a deer or dog.

    Common sense would be to keep on teaching, just do not open the door. Never known a deer able to work a doorhandle.

    For crying out loud people you country is going to hell in a handbasket, and you schools are the foundation for this downfall.

    If my kids school went into lockdown, for a dog in the halls, I would be calling for the staff members job, who is responsible.
    How can you even equate a stray dog, to imminent danger.
    Next you’ll be going into lockdown, because someone jumped out and yelled “BOO!”

  85. CLamb February 6, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    @Paul R. Welke, @pentamom When I was in elementary school during the Cuban Missile Crisis we had two types of alarms–a fire alarm and a bomb alarm. On sounding of the fire alarm we were to go outside by the nearest available exit. On hearing the bomb alarm we were to gather in the reinforced cinder block hallway.

  86. Amanda Matthews February 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    “Have humans always had this extreme fear of one terrible situation over another or is this new? Fires and shootings in school are both bad and could lead to many deaths.”

    Maybe it is the fact that fire drills have been around since the parents and teachers were in school, but few of them ever actually experienced a school fire (or if they did, they got out fine), and few of them ever heard much (if any) school fires; but now they have all heard of school shootings. So school shootings seem much more real and possible than school fires.

    After those school fires you can google, fire prevention and procedures were amped up, resulting in less deaths by school fire. Maybe not to the point that things are being amped up now to try to protect against school shootings… and fire prevention and procedures were amped up in ways that actually made sense, in contrast to school shooting prevention and procedures of today. But they were amped up in ways that made is so that when a school fire DID happen, there were so few deaths and injuries that the media had nothing to rant about. (For example I know that many school fire deaths use to happen because the windows were not low enough for the children to climb out of, or because there were no fire alarms or the children weren’t taught what to do when there were fire alarms. Those things were changed by the time the parents and teachers of today were in school.)

    So our society no longer sees school fires as a risk.

    I expect that these new procedures will cause some school fire injuries and/or deaths and will be quickly reversed and seen as idiotic. I HOPE that they will be seen as idiotic before injuries/deaths occur.

  87. Amanda Matthews February 6, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    “Common sense would be to keep on teaching, just do not open the door. Never known a deer able to work a doorhandle.”

    I HAVE known deer to run into a door and open it. Or into a window and break it – though I guess most American schools don’t have windows on the inside, where classrooms can look into the hallway? (They sometimes do in Asia.)

    So depending on the strength of classroom door locks, I suppose the best solution IN THEORY would be to lock the door and keep teaching. But in practice, good luck getting 30 kids to sit still, be quiet and focus when they have just heard that there is a deer in the building.

  88. m February 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    What are the odds of children dying in a burning building?

    What are the odds of a gunman setting off the alarm and shooting children?

    What are the odds of children dying in a fire because some idiot barricaded the door of the classroom, instead evacuating the kids when the fire alarm went off?

  89. Warren February 6, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    What are the odds, that lockdowns are becoming such an accepted procedure, that the school’s will just call lockdown’s for everything?

    From shooters, to floods, to squirrels, to pigeons to the french teacher being hungover and in a bad mood.

    Lockdowns are dangerous and need to stop. Period.

  90. pentamom February 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    “But in practice, good luck getting 30 kids to sit still, be quiet and focus when they have just heard that there is a deer in the building.”

    But you’d have better luck getting 30 kids to sit still in the middle of the floor with the lights out with nothing to do?

    I think that the extra step of locking the door is good — it’s just a failsafe to ensure that the door is properly latched. Beyond that, keep teaching. Even if you don’t succeed, at least you’re trying. How is that worse that sitting around in the dark trying to make the kids be silent?

  91. Warren February 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Again I find Amanda, coming up with every possible worst scenarios. Geez Girl, give it a rest. And where do you live, that you can make the statement “I have know deer to run into a door and open it.”

    I routinely have 10 deer on my property, that I can see on a daily basis. Probably a few dozen more in the woods, that I cannot see. And not once have they come within 10 yards of the buildings, let alone opened a door.

    Amanda, I strongly urge you to seek help, to deal with these fears.

  92. Tsu Dho Nimh February 7, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    @steve have you ever been in a shopping mall and had to leave because of a fire drill? Not a drill – a real fire when I was about 12. One of the breaker boxes for the air conditioning units exploded and there was billowing smoke, an amazing stench and flames all over the area I was in. After an earth-shattering KABOOM.

    I played sweeper – herded everyone out of the fitting rooms and aimed them at the exit, kept them together, and kept them moving.

    One reason for my staying calm and knowing what to do were the regular fire drills in school. Why the adults did what I told them to do is still a mystery to me. I must have had my rabid chipmunk persona that day.

    Have you ever participated in a fire drill anywhere but a school? Of course. When you work in a factory where the toxic gases are outnumbered by the explosive ones, there are regular drills. We could clear the 3-story multi-thousand square foot building in under 5 minutes, including getting the wheelchairs down the fire stairs and sweeping for strays.

    We played “hide the bunny” … bright pink stuffed rabbits would be left in cubicles, conference rooms and restrooms with instructions pinned to them for the sweep team. “Bunny” has fallen and broke a leg, bunny is having a heart attack, entire conference room of bunnies is overcome by smoke – sweepers had to call for the right resources and deal with it.

  93. Tsu Dho Nimh February 7, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    @Warren “If my kids school went into lockdown, for a dog in the halls, I would be calling for the staff members job, who is responsible. How can you even equate a stray dog, to imminent danger.”

    One word: RABIES

  94. Donna February 7, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    “Beyond that, keep teaching. Even if you don’t succeed, at least you’re trying. How is that worse that sitting around in the dark trying to make the kids be silent?”

    And, should you fail, the default should not be to sit quietly with the lights out in some lockdown, it is to accept that sometimes things happen, throw the lessons plans out the window for a short time, and engage the kids in something fun.

    This is not a high-drama situation that calls for a lockdown. An announcement that there is a deer in the building so everyone stay in the classroom and lock their doors is fine. Teachers should continue to teach if they can. If they realize that they’ve lost most of the class, let everyone take a break for awhile to get it back under control.

  95. Warren February 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    Even in here people have lost their minds.
    Deer that will open doors……..rabies…..what’s next……oh I know, that rabbit that tore the shotgun out of the hunter’s hands, shot him, and is now stalking the halls of the school looking for the hunter’s kids.

    Just for the record, if you are behind a closed door, learning math, or whatever, you are not in imminent danger. You are in absolutely no danger. Sorry people dispite what you may have seen in all those Disney animal movies, dogs do not open doors, deer do not exact revenge on the lumber jacks, and skunks to not spray in unison like a firing squad.

    If the kids, who know the deer is in the hall, don’t want to talk long division, then talk about the damn deer.

    You do not, repeat do not go into lockdown for a damn dog, or deer. For crying out loud, 99% of the time, it is a student’s dog that followed kids to the school.

  96. pentamom February 7, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    Good point, Donna.

    Warren, I agree with you 99%. But the rabies thing is a real possibility, and dogs (and other animals) act really weird when they’re sick with it, even before they freak out and get vicious– wandering into a strange school might be something they’d do. So yeah, don’t panic, and you don’t have to sit in a dark room, but it shouldn’t be treated as “nothing.” Lock the doors and keep the kids out of the hall (otherwise acting normally) until the thing is under some kind of control.

  97. Mark February 7, 2013 at 8:17 pm #


    Based on data for the United States since 1950, you’re only about 25 times more likely to die in a school fire than you are to die in a fire-alarm-driven ambush shooting.

    Worth mentioning is that both events are vanishingly rare: in the past 62 years, I’ve only been able to find 113 deaths from school fires (due in large part to safety improvements after those fires), and there have been 5 deaths from ambush shootings.

  98. pentamom February 8, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Of course it’s important to remember that a large part of the reason that children don’t die in fires is because they’re evacuated, not because fires don’t happen or aren’t dangerous. It’s a little hard to compare the death rates from things that actually happen but there are procedures in place to mitigate, versus things that almost never actually happen, head to head.

    Now if you came up with stats that said that schools only very rarely catch fire in the first place, that would be a fair comparison. But you can’t use a situation where a school catches fire and no one dies because everyone gets out, to determine whether it’s important to teach people how to evacuate.

  99. DH February 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    “Have you ever participated in a fire drill anywhere but a school?”

    The office building I currently work in has done one in the past year. It was pouring rain outside too,

  100. Rumplemeister March 5, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    I’m a child of the 60’s & 70’s. FREEDOM was in the air. My youngest child is a Senior this year. I made the mistake of letting her attend a public high school because she begged me to and because it was my “alma mater.” It was a new school and one of the best back in the mid-70’s. NOW it is the city’s proto-type ghetto high school. And the administrators are control freaks towards the students that are there to learn and they let the low lifes and the slackers just do what ever they want. America has allowed a police state to be set up over contrived events and right now the state wants to use contrived events to disarm us. Wake up people!

  101. Wiley209 March 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Luckily the K-8 school I went to for kindergarten is a first-floor building with direct exits to outside from most of the classrooms. They really do come in handy when the fire alarm goes off!

  102. Margaret March 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    I’m pretty sure the teacher who said they were in lock down in case of deer or raccoons was only saying that so that she wouldn’t have to tell little children that they were practicing lock down in case a madman came to the school to shoot them. I seriously doubt this was a wildlife drill.

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