This won’t always be a drill

Claire Goldsmith

Do you know what to do in the event of an emergency?

It might seem like an obvious question. After all, we’ve all run through fire drills and earthquake drills and lockdown drills since elementary school, to the point that “stop, drop and roll” has become routine.

The problem is, though, actual emergencies — those things we’re preparing for — are unpredictable. And if we’re not absolutely sure of what to do, if we haven’t practiced the appropriate procedure, it’ll be much more difficult to deal with the situation. We take a lot of things seriously at Harvard-Westlake, but too often we let more immediate worries occupy our minds when we should be thinking about the future.

Let’s take our most recent fire drill as an example. At the end of break, the alarm sounded, and students who’d already been warned by their teachers that a drill would occur shuffled out of the lounge and found their friends on the quad before heading down to Ted Slavin Field.

As everyone slowly made it down the congested stairs and lined up in their dean groups, people texted or studied in anticipation of the next period’s quiz.

Suddenly, dozens of kids ran in front of the bleachers to face the crowd and began dancing to “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” Realizing that the “Hairspray” cast was putting on a show, students broke free of their lines and clustered at the front of the field to watch the teaser — all thought of emergency preparedness completely lost.

It’s great that the school wanted to get the student body excited about “Hairspray,” and a flash mob is an inventive way of providing a teaser to the entire school without using up precious class meeting time. The cast could’ve performed its routine in a more appropriate setting like the quad, where much of the student body would’ve been able to see it — without turning a drill, which was already seen as a joke, into a literal song and dance.

Only three days before our fire drill, a gunman walked into Los Angeles International Airport and opened fire, killing a Transportation Security Administration agent and injuring other passengers and airport personnel. LAX police responded quickly and stopped the shooter, and their success was due to their practiced procedures for a gunman in the airport.

Three weeks earlier, police shut down Ontario Airport in a drill and ran through precisely the same situation. Although we should work to reduce the number of these mass shootings, right now this is the world we live in, and those who protect us in our everyday lives make sure that they’re prepared. So why don’t we take it seriously?

I think I can safely say that few students or teachers would choose to spend their free time performing lockdown drills, but we need to pay attention to these emergency preparedness practices. The 10 minutes we spend doing the drill could make the difference in your or your friends’ safety if some disaster were to happen at Harvard-Westlake.

As students, we spend a good deal of our time getting ready for the future. We read to prepare for the next day’s discussion; we do math problems to practice for the test. Even the concept of high school revolves around readying teenagers for their lives in college and as adults. But for some reason, we can’t seem to apply this preparation mindset to emergencies, where knowing what to do and where to go would matter much more than knowing the answer to your pop quiz.