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Students and staff work through safety drills and training across Utica Community Schools

A new school year brings with it a fresh start and an opportunity to reinforce skills within each classroom, including school safety drills and trainings.

“Each of our schools is required to conduct 10 safety drills throughout the school year,” UCS Director of Safety and Management Services, Brian LaPorte said. “This allows for our students and staff to go through the motions of what to do if an emergency situation were to arise.”

The safety drills practiced include fire, tornado, lockdown and shelter-in-place drills.

“It makes me feel safer knowing that we’re doing these drills because it’s better if the teacher tells you what you would need to do and where to go,” said Sophia Agazi, Eisenhower High School sophomore.

Students and staff are trained on Standard Response Protocols which provides every UCS stakeholder with a unified language to communicate an emergency.

The Standard Response Protocol has five stages:

Hold! - In the room or area and clear the halls
Secure! - Get inside, lock outside doors
Lockdown! - Locks, lights, out of sight
Evacuate! - A location may be specified
Shelter! - Hazard and safety strategy

“These drills and trainings are critical to the safety of our school community,” Burr Elementary Principal, Christian Mueller said. “Our students are empowered to take safety seriously through the leadership of our staff and teachers.”

In addition to students and staff, parents are also integral when it comes to safety at each school.

Eisenhower High School teacher, Stephanie Dixon, has been teaching for 11 years and said one thing she makes sure to cover with her students is the importance of communication, or lack thereof.

In the case of an emergency, Dixon emphasized with her students the importance of communicating with their parents not to call or go to the school.

“If 2,000 kids all tell their parents there is an emergency our first responders won’t be able to communicate with our school the way they need to,” Dixon said.

UCS works directly with the local law enforcement agencies to implement industry best practices for a safe learning environment.

“This is important stuff that we are trained with,” said Dixon. “We will do anything we can do to protect your kids.”