BY TAYLOR DESMOND
Carmel High School tested a new evacuation plan this week to combat the concerns associated with students gathering on the football field during emergency situations.
On Oct. 19, 2017, a bomb threat reached the CHS office via an anonymous phone call. In response to the threat, campus staff used the emergency protocol from 2014, despite 52 school shootings having occurred in the U.S. since then. Students and faculty gathered on the football field, moving away from student backpacks and waiting nearly two hours to get approval from authorities that it was safe to return to the school day.
Noting the congregation on the football field, assistant principal Debbi Puente points out that the open field wouldn’t be the best option if there were an active shooter on campus, the funneling of students going to the football field being a poor decision.
Subsequent to the threat, Monterey County employed a school resource officer to CHS via a special grant. Officer Kevin Gross currently intends to contribute to revising the emergency protocol planning and finding the best way to keep students safe.
CHS principal Rick Lopez explains, “There are a lot of conversations about safety protocols that we are having so there will be changes I imagine, but the [new evacuation plan] is the biggest change.”
According to Lopez, a partnership among the high school, fire department and police department resulted in the new emergency evacuation response plans that were tested Monday with students going to two different indoor evacuation sites: the gymnasium and the theater.
Meanwhile, some students disagreed with the benefit of having two sites and felt that there were still too many people put into a bottleneck situation to move in and out of the locations.
“This is very inconvenient because when we’re trapped in the gym I feel claustrophobic,” senior Dagmar Giachetti says. “I’d rather have space to run away if something was on fire.”
Puente explains that in the case of a school shooting, CHS students and faculty are still supposed to use the same guidelines from 2014. The guidelines state to use the Hostile Intruder tab inside of the emergency protocol response guides, something located in every classroom.
An announcement is supposed to occur over the school’s PA system, but Puente comments that the protocols are different depending on each given scenario. The idea of students following the teacher’s best judgement during the given time is the most important thing, according to Puente.
Gross’ experience as an officer in Monterey County makes him a driving force for the push to have a better emergency protocol system, as he is a key factor in the site’s decision-making, the assistant principal adds.
“One of the first things [the SRO] is going to start working on is looking at our security plan and revising it if necessary,” science teacher Tom Dooner says. “I feel pretty confident that the SRO will be able to figure out the best thing.”