OSPI School Safety Tips for April 2022

Mike Donlin, Program Supervisor, School Safety Center, OSPI
Mar 31, 2022

Safety blog

April 2022 School Safety Blog

The recent HB 1941 (2022) added language to the regular drill requirements. The new language seems to have caused a bit of confusion. Let’s take a quick look at school safety drills.

Schools have been doing safety drills for decades. Drills prepare students and staff to respond to a wide variety of threats and hazards. Staff and students need to know and practice these responses so they can be used in case of real emergency situations. Drills are essential; they help familiarize staff, students, and visitors in a school building with procedures, announcements, processes, and signals so that if there is a real emergency, there will be no hesitation or confusion in the response. 

In Washington, schools are required to practice four basic functional responses to threats or hazards: lockdown, evacuation, shelter-in-place, and drop-cover-hold on. Some districts and schools might modify the wording they use around their drills, but they all come down to these 4 basic functions. 

It is important to understand that safety drills are a specific type of preparedness exercise. Preparedness exercises fall into two categories: 1) discussion-based exercises which include such activities as scenario discussions, Tabletops, or seminars, and 2) operations-based exercises. 

Discussion-based exercises are great for furthering understanding and preparation. They can be adapted to staff meetings, classroom lessons, planning with first responders, PTA nights – any time there is an opportunity for safety-related conversations.

Under the operations-based category, there are three types of exercises:

  1. Drillscoordinated, supervised exercises that generally practice a single, specific action or function. Keep in mind that drills build muscle memory.
  2. Functional Exercises (FE): similar to drills but involve other (1st responder) partners in a more realistic situation.
  3. Full-Scale Exercises (FSE): real-time reenactments, creating a stressful, time-constrained environment that closely mirrors real events. 

FE and FSEs are often thought of as drills for first responders.

The new HB 1941 adds wording that says: “Lockdown drills may not include live simulations of or reenactments of active shooter scenarios that are not trauma-informed and age and developmentally appropriate.” 

Schools are required to practice drillsHB 1941 prohibits the use of full-scale functional exercises (FSEs) as part of the regular monthly drills. Although the bill specifically mentions lockdown situations, full-scale functional exercises should be considered prohibited for any and all regular monthly drills.

Drills are still required. Lockdown drills are still required. Full-scale exercises, live simulations, or reenactments are not drills, are not required, and in fact, are prohibited by HB 1941. 

To be most successful, ensure that all required drills:

  • Are well planned and pre-taught,
  • Announced,
  • Communicated to families,
  • Trauma-informed,
  • Age and developmentally appropriate,
  • Documented, and
  • Debriefed.

If there are any questions, please visit the OSPI Safety Center Dills (Required) page, or contact the OSPI School Safety Center. You can also contact the Regional School Safety Center at each of the nine Educational Service Districts (ESDs).

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