via David Rush on Flickr
via David Rush on Flickr

This post was originally published in February 2013.

I loved fire drill day when I was a kid.

No matter what you were doing, you had to stop and go outside. It was eery to see how quiet a few hundred elementary school students could be as we walked, single file from our classroom to the designated meeting point on the other side of the field.

I got to relive those wondrous years last month when our office building had a mandatory fire drill. The secretary put on a bright crossing guard vest, I put the radio station on auto pilot, and we all met at the mailbox across the street. Role call was taken, just as in school, except now instead of standing perfectly silent and still, there was idle chatter and a few cigarettes were lit.

Fire drills still happen in school, but they’re so commonplace that it’s nothing to write home about. As in, no notice from the teacher will be sent to the parents saying “we had a fire drill today in case you need to talk more about the subject with your kids.”

Lockdown Drills, on the other hand, get a notice:

Hello Parents!

We had an emergency lockdown drill at school today, and wanted to take a minute to share with you how we explained it to the children.

Sad and scary as it is, the most likely reason for us to ever go into lockdown mode would be if there was a threatening intruder in the school. These are the words we used to explain today’s drill:

“If something dangerous was going on in the hallway we would want to stay safe until we knew what was going on. We would all stay in our classrooms with the door locked. We would stay together and be quiet, in the coatroom, so that the people whose job it is to keep us safe would be able to concentrate on doing their jobs.”

We have no doubt that some very interesting 5-year-old interpretations of this story will be heard around your dinner tables this evening, and thought it would be best for you to have some context for it! Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns!

Okay, I LOVE the language that my son’s teacher used to give us the heads up that a Lockdown Drill happened today, but that doesn’t mean I have to like that they felt the need to have one. I asked my son about the drill and he said they all had to lie down and be “super quiet.” I asked him why and he said “in case there’s a wild animal in the school.”

He’s 5. He doesn’t quite get the point. Which is a good thing.

If my son went to Cary Grove school in Chicago, he’d have a very full understanding of how scared silly things have become. That school had a Lockdown Drill on Wednesday complete with someone in the hallway firing blanks “in an effort to provide teachers and students some familiarity with the sound of gunfire.”


I get that fire drills are common sense. They are a sensible tool to plan for disaster. They make you feel prepared and safe. Lockdown Drills, on the other hand, don’t make me feel safer. I think they underline a growing irrational fear.

I went shopping at a mall once where they had half a dozen people in bright SECURITY jackets positioned outside the entry. Those security guards didn’t make me feel safer, they seemed to highlight the fact that this mall was in an unsavory neighbourhood where problems often occurred. When I go to another country and see the army parading down the street with automatic weapons, it doesn’t make me feel safer, it has me wondering where the bad guys are.

Same with the Lockdown Drills. This is not about being prepared. This is about paranoia.

My community is safe. Yet my sons’ school, 2 blocks from my home, had to have a Lockdown Drill because of events that happened 2500 miles away. In another country.

We all love our kids and we want them to be safe. We all want and need to take common sense precautions to make sure that we have plans in place for the unexpected things that can happen. Call me a silly naive Canadian if you must, but I just don’t think that includes Lockdown Drills for 5 year olds.

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