Code mandates fire drills, school has yet to comply

Chronicle Staff

By Alice Phillips and Daniel Rothberg

Despite a rule in the California Education Code that “a fire drill shall be held at the secondary [school] level not less than twice every school year,” no fire drills have been conducted during the 2009-2010 school year.

Head of Security Jim Crawford said the understanding of administrators was that lockdown drills (in which students barricade their classrooms as if the school was under attack) could fulfill the code’s requirement. Crawford was unaware that the education code in question specifically referred to fire drills.

After reviewing section 32001 of the California Education Code, Information Officer Pam Slater with the Department of Education confirmed that independently funded private schools are required to comply with this section of the code.

“If we aren’t complying with it, we’re going to do them,” Crawford said. “We are going to shove them in at the end of the school year. If they are not done we could be subject to fines.”

“I’m confident in our emergency response, but that doesn’t negate the fact that we have to have drills twice a year. Period,” Crawford said.

Because of an increased focus on A.L.I.C.E training, which is intended to prepare students for an on-campus shooter, the school planned to conduct a lockdown drill this year, Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra said. Those plans were delayed because the siren intended to alert campus of a lockdown was put on backorder.

“[The lockdown drill] was going to take priority over other drills,” Salamandra said. “We try not to have too many disturbances or disruptions [in the schedule] throughout the year.”

Crawford said that even though “everybody knows how to do a fire drill,” he would rather practice them more frequently.

“If I had it my way I’d do a drill once a month,” Crawford said.

Although the backordered siren has arrived and has been installed, Salamandra said that administrators are having difficulty planning a lockdown drill because the school hopes to notify neighbors in the area of any upcoming lockdown drill (the siren can be heard up to half a mile away from campus).