Friday, November 6, 2009

My Fearful Friday

It was a drill.

It was only a drill.

But I knew about Fort Hood. I knew that there was something happening in Orlando. And I knew that the reality was, it was all to possible.

On Fridays, I volunteer at my children's school. The librarian is only half-time, so volunteers staff the library when she is not there in order to keep it open for the students. Because of the possibility of an event in the library today, they had announced that it would be closed during the later part of my shift, but I was still there, shelving, sorting, straightening.

Over the intercom was the call. "Teachers, this is a Code Red. Repeat, Code Red."

I have done fire drills. I have done earthquake drills. Tornado drills. But in the three and a half years now that I've volunteered in the library, this was the first Code drill I'd been part of.

I have a book of instructions, which in theory should help. And I was fairly certain that it was, in fact, just a drill, but given the events of the last two days, I couldn't be sure. And there are not really good instructions for the unique situation that I deal with.

You see, I don't have whole classroom groups. I get two or three kids from a classroom, and may have three or four classrooms sending me kids in at a time. There have been times when I have had upwards of 25 or 30 children from eight to ten different classes in the library.

Here is where I become nervous.

If we are evacuating the building, say for fire, I have kids from all over the building under my care. But they have teachers, perhaps on the complete opposite side of the building, who are concerned for them. Those teachers are trying to do headcounts, and I have some of their children! Those poor teachers don't know if those children are safe. They aren't even sure where they are.

Today's drill included a mock lockdown. Thankfully, the teacher's thought the library was closed, so I was the only one in the library. I ran through the list in my head. Lights out. Lock the doors. Go into the office. Lights out, lock the door. Stay away from windows, be sure you are out of the line of sight.

I found a key, kept where we are supposed to be able to grab it quickly in just such an event. No idea about how to lock the doors. Am I supposed to do the two other sets of doors? How quickly can I make a complete circle through the library, plus secure children? Where are all the switches to the lights I need to extinguish? How do I lock the office - I have no key there. There are a lot of windows in here. As I have been unable to lock down the library, how would I secure 20 kids in this room and make sure no one can see them in a window? How would I communicate to their teachers that I have their children, and that they are secured with me?

My stomach was in knots as I stood in the darkened library office, alone, knowing that if I had had kids in the room, I would not know what to do next. Several minutes passed. Finally came the all clear announcement. A few minutes later, the principal came through the library, and I snagged her. I shared my concerns, we talked about some options. I am more comfortable that next time, I'll be better prepared. But what about another volunteer?

I've left a note for the librarian. Truth is, none of us ever want to face the reality of these situations. Ever. But we might have to. And my own children are here in this building. I want it perfect. Flawless. Seamless. My friends children are here. Other kids, who's parent's I don't know, but who's faces light up when they find me in the library.

So, I'll make sure that we know. That we know what to do, and who to contact, and how to do that. We, the volunteers, will rock at protecting our children. Because that's the need we have.

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