Student Safety at Center of Fire Drill Protocol

It’s widely known at Northwood School that we take fire safety seriously here because our buildings are made out of wood. When there is a fire drill or a fire alarm everybody has to evacuate all school buildings and gather at the assigned meeting place on the field.

clubfire

The Lake Placid Club fire in 1992 is the kind of fearsome structure fire that motivates the School’s cautious fire drill procedure. (Photo: The Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society)

A recent late-night false alarm on a cold evening got students thinking: why evacuate all buildings if the trouble is clearly in just one? If the alarm is at 2:00am students in the girls dorm need to evacuate and gather on the field, even if the fire alarm is in the main building, several hundred yards away. It has always been this way, according to veteran faculty members interviewed for this story.

Assistant Head of School Mr. Tom Broderick was asked why everyone has to go outside for every fire alarm and not just evacuate the building that caused the fire alarm to go off.  He cited student safety as the main reason for the evacuation policy. “If there is a fire in the main building or in the classroom building, how do we know where everybody is? We need to know where everybody is at any given time.  We do an ‘all call,’ which is where you count every head in school. This way we can always be sure, whether there is a fire in the main building or the Bergamini building, that we have a everybody counted,” said Broderick.  “I know it feels like it makes sense [to only evacuate the building with the alarm, but] until we have the ability to count everybody in real time, we are a small enough school that we have to make sure that we have everyone accounted for,” said Broderick.

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