Update: Northwood’s School Safety Plan

On December 12, 2018, Kevin Quinn 19’ published an essay in The Mirror about how Northwood should prepare its students in an event of a school shooting. Quinn had suggested that Northwood adopt the same safety measure used by Oakland University–to equip all students with hockey pucks so that they can throw the pucks at the shooter. Now, of course, this is a bit of a long shot, but any plan is better than no plan at all. So what steps has Northwood School gone through to assure the safety of its students? To figure this out, I sat down with the Assistant Head of School Tom Broderick.

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Assistant Head of School Mr. Tom Broderick (Photo: Mr. Michael Aldridge)

My first question for Mr. Broderick was what he thought about the idea of students at Northwood carrying around hockey pucks. He said, “What I’ve learned over my time studying the Fort Hood massacre, studying Newtown, and studying other active shooter events, is that when students flee, they often have a greater chance at survival.” He added, “Also if you are confronted with an active shooter, distraction is a major thing. In reality, though, you don’t need to carry around hockey pucks to create a distraction for the shooter. Any object, say, a stack of paper, can be enough of a distraction to disrupt a shooter’s accuracy.”

I then asked Mr. Broderick if there is a reason why Northwood has never conducted drills to prepare for the possible event of a school shooting. He replied, “The school has tried to come up with the best way to run an active shooter drill. The problem is that right now, our school does not have at its disposal a warning system for this sort of thing. Northwood’s safety task force has been looking into purchasing an appropriate warning system.” He continued, “We can’t use the fire alarm for this sort of thing because a shooter might use it as a way to access more targets all at once. And since we are so efficient with fire drills, within two minutes an active shooter could have all the students and faculty out in the field. So using a fire drill would actually put people at greater harm. We are going to have some meetings with students as we go into the spring to talk about these sort of things, and hopefully, determine our plans of action rather soon.”

fire-alarm-systemFinally, I asked Mr. Broderick what current steps the school is taking to secure school buildings. He said, “At this point, the school has been authorized to secure most of the [entry] doors in the Allen building, in Bergamini, and in the Uihlein classroom building, and the Friedlander science center. Next year, when students return to campus, all students will be required to carry around what is called a fob, which is a small electric key that can open doors. They will not be able to enter school buildings without one.”

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The school safety plan will call for more locked doors, which may mean more keys and fobs (Photo: Kyle Bavis ’19).

“Now, all this being said, Lake Placid is a very safe place. I still leave my house unlocked. I still leave my car unlocked. The problem with the age that we live in today, though, is that we can not assume our safety. And so that is why these new measures and many more still to come, plan to be implemented here at Northwood School,” Mr. Broderick said.

We are living in a dangerous world. With the recent rise in the number of school shootings, school safety has never been more important. But with many school faculty like Mr. Broderick looking out for us, the Northwood community can all breathe a little bit easier.

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