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Northgate assesses safety after Florida shooting

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Students typically don’t take lockdown drills very seriously and when questioned, most will joke about it. However, a change came over Northgate the morning of Feb. 21 when the fire alarm pierced the air at around 8:30 a.m. Students said later they presumed the possibility of a more serious incident, in light of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

On Feb. 14, news broke out that some 2,550 miles away, a mass shooting took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after an alleged teen shooter pulled a fire alarm just before school ended and then went on a shooting rampage. The tragedy is one of more than 200 school shootings since the infamous Columbine High School, Colorado, shooting in 1999.

In the wake of the recent massacre, a wave of awareness about school safety rippled around the country and begged the question of whether or not Northgate is prepared for an intruder on campus.
“I think the school is as ready as it can be,” freshman Haroon Alefi said. “I can tell that the staff and administration are trying hard to prepare us for an emergency situation like the one that happened recently, but there is only so much that can be done to prevent something from happening at our school. We just have to do what we have always been practicing during drills and know to be prepared.”

“I think it’s best that we practice because you never know if it will happen,” said freshman Jake Weldan.
“I personally do not think the school is prepared to its full potential in light of recent events,” commented senior Makenna Hicks. “We have not taken this as seriously as we should have before the incident and now that so much has happened we decide how we stay prepared. Maybe the staff is more prepared than we think but from what we know is that there isn’t much direction as what to do.”

“I honestly don’t know how a school could prepare for such a situation, but I think Northgate does have a sound protocol, especially with the new alarm,” said junior Aava Farhadi. “My first thought when I hear a fire alarm shouldn’t be that an active shooter is on campus, but that’s the reality for many students. I worry that our politicians will continue to ignore the issue at hand in order to keep receiving money from the National Rifle Association. But I have a lot of hope because of the amazing work that students, like those at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, are doing.”

When Northgate’s alarm went off seven days after the Florida shooting, students and staff had different reactions. Instead of following the immediate evacuation procedure, some stayed inside out of fear since the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High involved the suspect’s alleged use of a fire alarm.

“At first, my instinct was to go, but then I thought for a second and decided to stay in class,” said senior Katie MacCormac. “Everything we had learned about immediately evacuating totally left everyone’s mind during that time and we all stayed still in my class. Everyone told our teacher to close the door and to not move until we had more information.”

Teachers on campus feel the need to have conversations to improve how Northgate’s procedures.
“It is important to process what we as a community are feeling,” said French teacher Julia Flanagan-Schmidt. “When the fire alarm unexpectedly went off, I noticed that students immediately became tense and started talking about events in Florida. I never noticed that before the shooting. In addition, it is helpful to reflect upon what safety procedures we do have in place and what worked to keep some people safe.”

Due to unease on campus following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the administration has made adjustments to emergency procedures.

“The first adjustment is making sure everybody moves away from the post-Colombine approach, which is to just stay put,” Principal Michael McAllister elaborated. “Now we are implementing the Run, Hide, Fight scenario, which is recommended not only at the federal level but also by state and local law enforcement.”

The administration had originally planned an active shooter drill on March 8. However, amid rumors circulating about a potential school school threat and many students staying home out of fear, the administration cancelled the drill for logistical reasons and said it will be rescheduled.

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