Wittenberg Needs to Better Prepare Students for Safety Issues

On Tuesday, Wittenberg experienced something rare. After a day of gloomy weather and thunderstorms, a tornado warning was issued for Clark County. Students were forced to take refuge wherever they were and wait out the passing storm. While the tornado safely moved from Springfield and no one was injured, students were not prepared for the tornado drill and did not have the proper knowledge of where to go.

When the warning was issued, I was in the weight room lifting with a friend. Athletic Director Gary Williams, coach Craig Penney and Ellen Crosbie, head athletic trainer, entered the room and began directing students out of the weight room. After some confusion, everyone began moving out of the room. This was followed by a pause in the lobby area of the HPER Center, everyone moved to the back athletic hallway.

Tornados typically happen during the late spring or early summer, but they can occur at any point in the year. So, it was a bit of a surprise for a warning to be issued. The athletic staff did a fantastic job of taking care of everyone in the building and getting them to a safe area. That being said, students were confused with the protocol going on.

I cannot recall a time when I knew what to do if there was a tornado warning. If I was told of what to do in this situation, it was just a brief comment. This seems like it is a huge problem. Students went on oblivious on what to do in the circumstance until the severe weather policies were emailed to students on Friday.

It’s good that the email was sent out to students and that they have the opportunity to look through the policies and learn what to do if we are in a potentially dangerous situation, however, it is not enough. Students need to know what to do in every situation that danger could be a possibility. That way if there is a problem, students know what they should be doing to stay safe.

High schools across the nation are required to complete fire drills, tornado drills and active shooting drills. They do these to varying amounts, but my high school had tornado drills two or three times a year. High schoolers have an idea of what to do in the different instances because they have practiced them multiple times.

Now, I am not saying that we should be involved in campus wide drills—although that would probably be the best option to prepare students for an active shooter. We should have drills though to prepare us for situations like this past Tuesday. These drills could even be once a semester, like the fire drills that we have for the dorms.

I do realize these drills can seem like a hassle. Drills are never announced and they can seem to fall on the most inopportune times, like when you are studying for a big final, taking a nap or even showering. However, a person’s safety should be the highest priority, not a little bit of wasted time.

The set up could also be the same as the dorm drills as they can be executed well. Wittenberg’s police officers handle the fire drill, set it off and then move around and check to make sure no one is in their rooms. For a tornado drill, they could do the same thing and then check to make sure students are in the safest area of their building. Handling safety policies this way, students would have the opportunity to practice for the event. This would mean they would be more likely to remember what to do if a situation were to arise.

While it is good for students to be emailed the information about the policies, it is highly unlikely that all students read it. Many students just pass over the information. While I do realize that this is their choice and if we are in a dangerous situation they will be at fault if they did not read it, the risk of students’ safety is too big to just let this go. Students need to be forced to practice drills in order to stay safe in potentially dangerous instances.

 

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