‘This is not a drill’

Smoking electric breaker causes West Campus evacuation

Sophia Comas, Online Editor-in-Chief

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Manhattan High’s West Campus put Safety Week’s drills into practice, creating a mass exodus of students and staff as they evacuated the building after the fire alarms went off, followed by an announcement of “this is not a drill” over the intercom. 

According to principal Michael Dorst, the evacuation occurred when the campus’s maintenance staff reported smoke coming from an electric breaker off of the main electric panel, causing the school to issue the evacuation notice along with notifying first responders. 

While there were no reports of flames inside the building, the school took precautionary measures to ensure that the safety of students and teachers was secured before any real danger took place. 

“[The fire department] said we were doing a good job,” Dorst said. “Our staff was doing a good job tending to your needs.”

Although MHS has been doing well with practicing for dangerous situations, Dorst said that the fire department still gave him a list of things everyone still needed to work on after the fire drill on the previous Monday.

However, Dorst said implementing those improvements were no challenge to building administrators and members of the safety team, who had seen the list barely an hour before the changes needed to take place, making the process more efficient.

“They absolutely went right to work doing the things we had asked them to do,” Dorst said. “It’s really proof that safety weeks actually do work and the fire department gave us glowing reviews from all individuals in all aspects of keeping our building safe.”

For schools with a large student population like MHS, being quick and efficient in times of crisis are some of the most important things in keeping people safe, which is why Dorst appreciates any opportunity to improve on student and staff accountability during those events.

“It’s good to know that we can practice a certain speed and efficiency of identifying and certifying that we have a known location of all the students that we need to,” Dorst said. “It’s good to know that we can do things faster.”

Dorst also says that although first responders are the ones who contain threats to the building, the credit for keeping occupants safe really belongs to students and staff. Their ability to remain calm and productive during evacuations allows for everyone to be accounted for before first responders arrive.

“We’ve got a great school, great people, and we’re in a great community,” Dorst, said. “We’re certainly getting a lot of practice on how to respond to events and the reason we’ve been able to maintain a sense of normalcy is because of the people that we have, especially our students and our faculty.”

As of now, students and staff are safe to occupy the building and the damaged breaker will stay shut down as maintenance continues to fix it, which will result in no electrical power at the school on Saturday morning as it’s being replaced.

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