Students are back at the books throughout Northeast Mississippi and school activities are underway. While the three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic – are the foundation of learning, they are accompanied each year by the regular practice of fire and tornado drills.

Drills date back decades to the ’50s when the “duck-and-cover” nuclear bomb drills were conducted. Now it’s routine to have practice activities in the event of fire where everyone is evacuated from the building to the nearest fire exit and of tornados where students huddle in hallways with their hands over their heads.

No matter what drill is being done, the reason is the same – to ensure that teachers and students are prepared in the event of an emergency and to make sure they know what they need to know to keep themselves safe.

Unfortunately, random shootings continue across the country and their results will be the same unless schools take precautions. Active shooter drills have been added to the list of safety training in schools thanks to The Mississippi School Safety Act, which requires all school districts to hold active shooter drills twice a year, within the first 60 days of each semester, and also to have a threat assessment.

Several schools in Northeast Mississippi have already scheduled drills to make sure teachers and students are prepared if an attack did occur. School administrators, teachers, counselors, law enforcement officials, emergency responders and parent representatives should work together to develop detailed plans for these drills.

Law enforcement officials have noted that the average response time when an incident occurs is three to five minutes, which means a person only has minutes to execute a plan. Lockdown drills and practicing emergency response plans can reduce safety risks and anxiety, especially among younger children.

Parents depend on schools to keep their children safe and these drills are critical to students and teachers to know how to respond when there is an emergency. Children need to know that schools are safe.

Though regular lockdown drills can be frightening at first, having everyone working off the same game plan and equipped with the essential tools for handling these situations can bring reassurance when most needed.

Preparation and practice can save lives.

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