There were years when I would rush through this little speech and breeze over what we would do in different emergency situations. Apparently I thought that cutting my "emergencies" speech short would allow for a couple minutes of rhythm reading or something "more important" that I now realize is in no way more important. Students aren't just students, they're kids. Kids want to know that they're safe. Kids have real fears and legitimate questions. Taking the time to talk through what happens in emergency situations shows my kiddos that I have a plan to keep them safe, allows them to ask questions, and gives them peace of mind in case an issue should arise down the road. Take the instructional time to have this conversation. It's worth it.
Below you can read though how I approach each emergency situation, some of the things that I say to kiddos, and examples I give to make emergency situations seem less scary.
Intro to Conversation - Setting the Stage
I want to tell them what would happen if we have an emergency or an emergency drill. I say "I know you've probably already talked with your homeroom teacher about what to do in emergency situations, but where you go and what you do in your homeroom might be a little different than we we do in the music room. I want you to know exactly what you would do if something happened during music class so that you're prepared."
I used to ONLY say, "We're going to talk about fire drills" or "We're going to talk about what happens during a lock down drill." I don't say that anymore. Now I intentionally say
"Here's what we would do in case there's a fire or a fire drill," or "This is what we would do if there was a lock down or a lock down drill." I phrase it this way for a couple reasons. 1) I think that kids should be prepared for a drill or an actual emergency situation. Always saying the word "drill" when having this talk removes the possibility of an actual emergency situation. In that case, you're only preparing them for drills and not actual emergencies, and if that's what you're doing then why have the conversation at all? 2) Kids are way more resilient than you think. I worked for 11 summers at a camp for kids who had been abused and neglected. These kids had gone through terrible situations and came out on the other side as... kids. Kids can handle the big stuff. Saying the word "lock down" is not going to ruin their lives and in fact, having this conversation with them prepares them and makes the idea of an actual emergency situation a little less scary.
Fire Drill - "Evacuation"
I begin the conversation with a sentence like "If there were a fire or a fire drill, this is what we would do." I tell them that if the fire alarms go off we would quickly and quietly make a line where we ALWAYS line up at the end of class. The difference is that at the end of class they're allowed to talk quietly when they line up. If there is a fire or fire drill they CANNOT talk. "If you're talking when you line up I might start to yell or look angry. I need you to know that it is a serious situation. If you are talking you might miss important information or you might make it difficult for ME to hear important information. You must be quiet."
Then I talk about how we would walk out the hallway, go through the closest door, and stop at our assigned spot outside on the grass. I tell them that I would quickly go through the roster and if every kid was there I would hold up my green card. This shows the office and principal that every kid was accounted for. If I go through the roster and a kid is missing I would hold up my red card. Even if I know that kid is with their teacher taking a test or went down to the office to drop off something I hold up the red card. Then the office staff would check with me and we could have someone confirm that the missing student made it out of the building. I tell kids this so that they know we care about them and will confirm that EVERY student is safe.
Oh, and for the record, I ALWAYS have a kid who asks if one of my plans is to break through the windows. Never fails. And when I say "Yes, if ALL other options are blocked... then we would go through the windows." and half of the kids in the room whisper "YES!" and pump their fists. Hilarious!