Code Red — the new “Duck and Cover”

Okay, I’m gonna date myself again, but I wonder how many of you remember the “Duck and Cover” drills we had back in elementary school during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

The drill went thusly: The alarm would go off throughout the whole school, and the teachers would instruct us to get under our desks, tuck ourselves into as small a ball as possible, and cover our heads with our arms.

Why were we doing this? In case of a nuclear attack.

I kid you not.

Well, Cait came home yesterday and shared an equivalent form of insanity. Her school practiced what they call the “Code Red” drill.

The drill went thusly: The alarm went off throughout the whole school while one of the administrators announced “Code Red, Code Red” over the loud speaker. The teachers locked the classroom doors (with the glass windows in them), turned off the lights, and instructed the children to line up against the wall on the side of the door and stay very quiet.

Why were they doing this? In case a terrorist or a nut with a gun had entered the building.

Does anybody besides me have the urge to laugh or cry hysterically at the lunacy of both of these drills? Does anybody on the PLANET think either of these drills could possibly keep any child safe from that particular brand of harm?!!!

Hmmm, let’s see… Nuclear bomb vs. children under desks. A nanosecond? And, oh, a terrorist (which, let’s remind ourselves, so far has not attacked any schools) or a very disturbed teenage kid with a gun (the most likely attacker, and in this case, a kid who would have also been included in these Code Red drill practices) vs. a locked door and lights out. Maybe three seconds?

What is the school thinking? That this kid is going to find a locked door and say to himself, “Oh well… door’s locked, guess Scottie beamed everybody up in the middle of a school day. Nobody here to kill, so I’ll just go home now.” (Of course, we won’t even speculate about this kid already being INSIDE the building or classroom to start…)

Oh, this just makes me want to pull my hair out! Administrators — what do you think you are accomplishing with such ridiculous drills?!!! Besides scaring the begeezus out of innocent children?!!! This is the best you can come up with?!!! This is your idea of promoting safety and preparedness?!!! I do understand the urge to do something so as not to feel powerless. But this has about the same effectiveness as patting your head, rubbing your tummy and jumping on one foot to make yourselves feel better!!! What a mad, mad world we live in!

Okay, I’ve used up my allotted number of exclamation points for the year, I’m taking a deep breath now, and calming down. All righty then. Done venting. As an ex-EMT trained in emergency preparedness, I’m off to go speak as civilly as I can with the principal to see if there’s a way to come up with something a little more, ah, effective.

14 thoughts on “Code Red — the new “Duck and Cover””

  1. Probably a good way to teach kids responsibility as well. Bill Bryson’s hilarious, he also does a great job in a short history of nearly everything.

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  2. Andrew just finished Bryson’s book and laughed his head off. The guy’s a very funny guy.

    Hmm… You know Ranjit — doggies in school– you’ve got me thinking! :)

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  3. doggies in school!!! they will protect the kiddies.

    nah just kidding, I agree with you that this drill is plain silly. was just reading bill bryson’s thunderbold kid where he describes the preparation for nuclear attack in schools. how he did not get under the table but spent the time reading comics! and how the principal and some head honcho of education showed up and he got in lots of trouble.

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  4. Good question. Who is the enemy? The minuscule percent of the population that causes problems, or the minds that get bound up in the fear of anticipation and reaction?

    I realize this is a very complex and touchy subject, and there’s no clear-cut, simple, or foolproof solution. And, I’d venture to say that we all want to keep our children safe. But here’s the thing– is the Code Red drill going to save children? Or does it actually allow for a false sense of security?

    I’m all for emergency preparedness. I just don’t think this drill is the answer. And I don’t want my daughter to get sucked into the fear-mongering.

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  5. I remember doing “duck and cover” in school, but that was for earthquakes (in CA)…How disturbing that children are being frightened by school administrators. I’m sure there are better ways of educating children about what to do in case of danger, and more effective methods of protecting them.

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  6. Jan, first, thank goodness your grandson was okay! I’m sure that must have been upsetting!

    But getting back to the Code Red drill — on the surface, it seems plausible that something like it would save lives. In your scenario, where there are flying bullets not directly targeting the children, it could save a stray bullet from hitting a child. And certainly by locking down the school before anyone has entered the building would go a long way toward preventing an outsider from being able to come in and create a hostage situation. (Though this depends somewhat on the glass window arrangement on the first floor, which could change that. In which case, I’d get the kids on the floor in the hallway, if there is a hallway.)

    My problem with this drill at our school is that it’s been specifically created and implemented in reaction to the killings of children by other children. (Come to find out, schools around here have been practicing this drill since Columbine.) This is where the logic and value of the drill falls apart for me. In this case, the killer is already in the school, knows about the Red Drill, and would have thought about how to circumvent it. If the child chooses to attack during a time when there are many children in the hallway, this drill does no good. If the child chooses to attack his classroom, he’s already in the classroom, and, again, this drill does no good. If the child chooses to wait and attack as children exit the building at the end of the day, this drill does no good.

    Our school’s outside doors are locked as a matter of course, and have been for years. If a random wacko attacker tried to enter from the outside, I imagine he could think of an excuse to be allowed to enter. As soon as that happens, that’s where the drill falls apart again…

    But this is more about the state covering itself in the event of such a tragedy. I talked with the principal, and she agrees that there are holes big enough to drive a truck through, but these drills are mandated and she can’t do anything about them. Still, we are talking to investigate a more workable plan.

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  7. You can’t help getting a creeping “1984” type feeling, as if The Society relishes putting another generation through the fear machine. Whose terror tactics, by the way? I’m not sure I even know who “the enemy” is at the moment.

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  8. There was a situation recently where a chase for drug dealers ended in a building just two blocks from where my grandson goes to school.

    The police put the school in a lockdown, which meant that all doors were locked and the children were put on the floor away from possibly flying bullets until the situation ended with the arrest.

    I understand your point, but if schools don’t prepare for emergencies, they will come under attack if they are not prepared for one.

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  9. Oh Karen, that is terrible. I am not old enough to remember those drills (sorry!) but a friend was and I remember him telling me that he figured he might as well “live it up” since the end of the world was coming. That is how he and his girlfriend ended up pregnant and married at 17.

    We are definately a fear based society bent on providing a panacea… “here take this pill, you’ll feel better. Sorry, it’s a little hard to swallow”.

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