New bill would require additional ‘lockdown’ drill to replace fire drill

By Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 11:29 am on Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Students exit the north entrance to Greenville High School as school lets out Monday. New legislation expected to be voted upon soon by the state Senate will replace one required fire drill with a “lockdown drill” at schools. Currently, the law requires six fire drills, two tornado drills and two lockdown drills. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

Legislation is pending in the Michigan State Senate which will require school districts statewide to implement an additional lockdown drill in place of a fire drill.

Local school officials say the change will be relatively easy to implement and beneficial for students.

“Keeping the best interest and safety of students and staff in mind, changing the drill requirements will be an easy task,” said Belding Area Schools Superintendent Sara Shriver. “Belding, like other area schools, work very collaboratively with district staff and local law and fire officials to ensure these planned and unplanned drills meet the level of security needed.

“The impact of having school safety and security drills has a positive effect on reassuring students, staff and families that we are as well prepared as we can be for an emergency that may arise,” she added.

House Bill 4713 was passed last month by the state House (82-26)  and would amend the state’s Fire Prevention Code to modify school drill requirements. The change would essentially replace one of the required fire drills with a lockdown drill. Currently, the law requires six fire drills, two tornado drills and two lockdown drills.

If passed, the bill, introduced by Rep. Joseph Graves, R-Argentine Township, would require schools to hold three lockdown drills.

“Unfortunately, it’s more relevant today,” Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, who voted in favor of the bill, said of lockdown drills. “It will help prepare them for the eventuality, if something does happen.”

According to the House summary of the bill, the lockdown drill would have to be conducted to prepare for “an emergency such as the release of a hazardous material or the presence of a potentially dangerous individual on or near the premises.”

“If they are done well, it can help (staff and students) mentally role play for what to do,” said Greenville High School Assistant Principal Todd Oatley, who said he supported the legislation.

He added that the additional lockdown drill will help better train for “code red” situations.

“Practicing this stuff mentally is important. In drills, we can see where communication breaks down,” he said.

All drills are currently required to be in coordination with emergency management or law enforcement, but the new bill would eliminate that requirement, instead asking districts to seek input from those officials. The district would have to notify law enforcement of dates and times of scheduled drills.

HB4713 would also require districts to document completed drills online within five school days and maintain them for three years.

“As a parent, that would make me assured schools are doing what they should be doing,” Oatley said.

Since 2001, school districts in Montcalm County have had a uniform procedure in place for emergency response, a process that was just recently revised. Oatley said Greenville and other local districts are able to work with local law enforcement to focus on safety for students and sees the extra drill as one more opportunity to do so.

The bill has been forwarded on to Senate, where, according to Outman, it may hit the floor soon for a vote soon.

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