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West Valley City Journal

Run, Hide Fight: multiple choice response for teachers

Oct 01, 2018 05:25PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Run-hide-fight is the new emergency protocol for Granite District employees.

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Run-hide-fight is the new emergency protocol for Granite District employees.

“We’re asking our staff to think outside the box in terms of what we’ve asked them to do in the past and think what is going to be in the best interest of their students,” said Ben Horsley, director of communications at Granite District. “We are entrusting them; we are empowering them to make the decision in the best interest of those students.”

Staffs have been trained to evaluate an emergency situation and respond with the action that makes most sense—run, hide or fight. Run if the danger is on the opposite side of the building; hide if it is in a nearby hallway; and when the danger is close enough that running and hiding are no longer options, fight.

“We want our teachers to aggressively attack,” said Horsley. “We want them to fight dirty; we want them to throw things; we want them to protect their students at all costs.”

The new protocol empowers teachers to make the decision that best keeps their students safe in an emergency situation based on their specific circumstances. A middle school teacher may decide to break a window and evacuate students. In the same hallway, a teacher of special needs students wouldn’t be able to evacuate quickly so she locks the door. A kindergarten teacher, who knows her students’ abilities, can decide if they can safely navigate an escape or if they should go into lockdown.

“The whole process is, instead of thinking static, we want our staff thinking dynamic,” said Horsley. “Instead of checking off a list in an emergency, we want them thinking and analyzing the situation.”

Administrators introduced their faculty to the changes as the school year began and detailed information was sent to families in the district’s Parent Link magazine mailed to homes in September.

Cindy Dunn, principal at Calvin Smith Elementary, said her faculty appreciates the flexibility of the new policy which takes a proactive position on students’ safety. 

“They are happy to know they have the license to do what’s best to keep the kids safe,” she said.

She said this is the first time the district has been able to address the unique circumstances of each school. Previously, some district protocols didn’t work for every campus.

 “All of our campuses look very different; access in our schools looks very different, so I think they recognized that we need to make some site-based decisions on some of these things,” said Dunn. “Our school has limited exit points from our playground, so that was one of [teachers’] biggest concerns.”

During monthly faculty meetings, Dunn’s staff discusses possible emergency scenarios. They brainstorm options for disabling an intruder with items in the classroom, such as throwing chairs or poking their face with sharp pens. 

“I think that puts people’s minds at ease a little bit if you can even just talk about it,” she said. “No matter how much you practice, you never know how you’re going to react until the moment. So, I think the best thing we can do is talk about it.”

And administrators agree that the goal of safety drills is not to upset anyone, especially students.

A safety team has been established at Calvin Smith Elementary to develop procedures for training that don’t scare the students.

“We don’t want to invoke fear, but we want them to know that they will be prepared if something were to happen and they will know what to do,” said Dunn.

Horsley said Granite District officials are working with the state Board of Education and the Utah State Legislature to modify safety drill requirements to reflect current possible dangers. Utah law requires seven fire drills each year in elementary schools and four in secondary. Horsley points out that there have been no school fire fatalities in the U.S. since 1950. An earthquake is more possible and yet only one is required each year. Currently, it is up to the discretion of administrators to determine the number of drills held for additional safety procedures such as lockdown, lockdown with cover, shelter in place, general evacuation and reunification.