St. Matthew Practices ALICE Evacuation Procedures!

"The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." Psalm 121:8

Do you remember practicing fire drills as a kid when you were in school? When I was a student, I always wondered who pulled the piercing alarm that had the power to evacuate the entire school building? Once I became a principal, I quickly learned that exciting job became MINE! Every year, to ensure student safety, we practice fire drills at least eight times a year so that students will automatically know what to do in the event that there would ever be a fire emergency in the building. So imagine my surprise a few years ago when one morning, I was meeting with another teacher in my office and the fire alarm went off!

We both looked at each other in shock as we immediately realized this was not a scheduled drill that I had planned or that I had executed! However, racing out of my office with my adrenaline level at an all time high, my heart was absolutely elated to see that no one knew the wiser, and everyone was proceeding exactly as we practiced. The building was evacuated in record time.

In fact, it wasn't until the fire trucks actually pulled in the school parking lot a few minutes later that many staff members realized this was not a drill, with the exception of the teacher that was sheepishly apologizing to everyone when she realized that the pizzas that she was in the process of cooking in the upstairs kitchen for a special classroom treat were the cause for the smoke that triggered the fire alarm system.

Safety drills are necessary procedures that allow us to be prepared in the event of an emergency!

Other extremely important safety drills that we frequently practice also include tornado drills, as well as evacuating and lockdown drills. Two years ago, the Walled Lake Police Department worked with our St. Matthew Safety Team to educate and instruct our entire staff with ALICE Training. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate, and the philosophical premise is to empower staff and students with proactive strategies such as barricading the door, throwing objects, evacuating the building when at all possible, etc., rather than the traditional passive strategy of hiding in the corner of the classroom.

To prepare our students for life saving ALICE strategies, we will need to practice; however, this will be done with age appropriate strategies and vocabulary. For instance, in the younger grades, the students will be instructed by utilizing a game format called "Shepherd, Sheep, and Wolf" where the sheep (students), need to follow the shepherd, (the teacher), to safety from the wolf (bad guy or intruder). Older students will have a more direct conversation regarding evacuation procedures. Students will be shown which window in their classroom is an egress window or the window that will be broken if necessary to escape.

In the event that students would ever need to evacuate the building, all students will be informed of their age appropriate "Safe Spot" where they will run and meet their teachers and classmates. All safe spots are on the east side of South Commerce Road so that NO student will cross South Commerce Road. Next week, all teachers will walk their students over and show them their designated "Safe Spot".

Every teacher also has an emergency radio so that conversation can occur between the entire staff during an emergency. In addition, each teacher also has an evacuation envelope containing every student's contact and emergency information.

We want to make you are aware that these conversations are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, October 5th, so that you are able to help support this conversation and reassure your child when he/she returns home from school on this day. Preschool 4 will have this conversation on Wednesday, October 6th.

As I write this article and actually see these directives in print, I pray that we will never need to engage in such activity. However, the Lord calls us to live by faith and not by fear, and we have peace knowing that we are prepared, but we will not be scared, because we have the greatest assurance knowing that Jesus is ALWAYS watching over us!

In His Love,
Mrs. Palka

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