Some Confused During March Tornado Drill


Muhammad Naufal Subhia via thenounproject

“Tornado drills have blue lights. Fire drill lights have a red outline and say ‘fire’ on the side,” Principal Paul Chase said.

The loud siren of an emergency drill screamed through the hallways at the beginning of third period on Thursday, March 16.

Most students stayed inside the building, but in the English hallway, many students went outside because some teachers thought it was a fire drill. 

Dr. Casey Matthews, however, knew that it was a tornado drill. 

“She expressed her exasperation with those [of us] … who got it wrong” English teacher Josh Davis said. “She said ‘It’s a tornado drill. It’s a tornado drill. Didn’t you read Mr. Chase’s email!?’”

Principal Paul Chase had indicated in his weekly email to teachers that there would be a tornado drill during third period on Thursday.

The students that were already outside, of course, didn’t know that it was a tornado drill and continued walking toward the parking lot, where they knew to go in the event of a fire drill. 

Teachers tried to get them back into the building. English teacher Evan Luzar did not have students that period, but helped get students back in.

“[We] tried to get students to come back,” Davis said.

Although many students went outside from the English hallway, there were others outside near the front entrance of the school as well.

When students came back into the building, the alarm continued to sound.

It is the expectation that staff members know the difference and look at the lights. Ultimately, this is why we have drills and practice.

— Principal Paul Chase

At 10:25 there was an announcement that everyone should go into the classrooms and ignore the tornado drill’s continuous wail because it was still going on. The siren continued until 10:35 then abruptly stopped.

Chase explained in an email that there was a problem turning the alarm off.

“There was a spring that we had to replace that did not let us close the alarm box (thus the delay),” he wrote. “Then the system had to be reset.”

Chase also explained the difference between a tornado alarm and a fire alarm. 

“Tornado drills have blue lights,” he wrote. “Fire drill lights have a red outline and say ‘fire’ on the side.” 

The two alarms also make different sounds.

“There is definitely a different tone and pitch.” Chase added.

Chase also explained something that would be different during an actual tornado warning.

“If this was a real tornado warning, in most cases, we would be able to give instructions over the PA as well,” he said. “An alert would be followed with directions of where to shelter inside.”

“It is the expectation that staff members know the difference and look at the lights,” he added. “Ultimately, this is why we have drills and practice.”