LITTLE ARMENIA—The word preparation is defined as something done in advance in order to be ready for a future event. Being prepared for an emergency is especially important and is something that we all know we must be; however, often times we delay our preparation thinking we have time or that “it can never happen to us.”
At Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School, preparation is something that is taken very seriously. Along with regular evacuation and reverse evacuation drills, Pilibos has also conducted two large-scale functional drills with varying scenarios in the first half of the academic year. The first functional drill was a lockdown exit drill conducted to test how parents and guardians would pick up their child(ren) from school if there was a restricted lockdown. The drill was a great learning opportunity for the school and for all parents and relatives to improve upon the exit procedures in the case of a real emergency. LAPD officers were on campus monitoring the procedures and commended the administration and staff on their care-taking procedures within the campus and their efforts in releasing students to their appropriate emergency contacts.
The second drill was a comprehensive Earthquake Drill. With the leadership of Principal Dr. Alina Dorian, who is also Assistant Director for UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters, the administration planned a three hour drill, reenacting an actual emergency, in this case an earthquake. Like every year, Pilibos organizes and prepares for emergencies such as fires, earthquakes, and other disasters, aiming to be prepared for anything, as no two disasters are ever alike. During this drill, the School simulated an event where students and faculty had to evacuate buildings, set-up medical, search and rescue, student and staff accounting, logistics, and other response stations, search, rescue, and treat trapped and injured students and adults, and once again test the pick-up and release of students.
Around 10:00 a.m. the call was made over the PA that an earthquake had begun. The call lasted for 60 seconds symbolizing the duration of the earthquake. Teachers, from Pre-K to 12th grade, instructed their classes to “Drop, Cover, and Hold” as they had practiced in the past. When the earth stopped shaking, the classes proceeded down to their designated meeting areas on campus. Once all the classes had assembled and teachers had taken roll to make sure all were present, team leaders assembled and began their tasks in their assigned roles in the various sections such as “Safety and Security,” “Search and Rescue,” “Planning,” “Student and Staff Accounting,” “Medical,” and “Student Care.”
Students and adults were randomly selected to play the parts of victims, with minor injuries such as scraped knees, to major injuries such as head injuries and unconscious states. Search and Rescue team members geared up in their vests and hard hats in search of the victims and returned them to the medical station for evaluation and treatment.
Student and staff accounting took their places at the “Sign-in” and “Sign-out” gates, with rosters and emergency information for each student.
Support Services enlisted the help of students to set up tents and temporary restrooms to equip our campus with necessary refuge areas. They also prepared drink and food to pass out to the entire student body, faculty, and staff.
Several volunteer parents along with the Pilibos Emergency Preparedness and Response Team (a student led group) served as evaluators to observe and report what they saw and provided feedback on the effectiveness and success of actions taken.
In all, the drill was a success. While many were unsure what to expect, they all did their best based on their training and experiences, which most accurately would parallel a real emergency situation. The participation of the faculty, staff, and students, the level of seriousness and responsibility, and the effort to work as a team was commendable. Moreover, the students’ attitude and composure during the process was most impressive. Their willingness to help and participate was outstanding and greatly appreciated. Not only did they assist during the drill, a group of students also assisted after the drill was over, cleaning up, taking down the tents and re-organizing the emergency bins.
With each drill Pilibos improves upon its procedures and efforts, increases its level of commitment, and becomes truly prepared – ready for an actual future emergency.