University High School students and faculty participated in a full-scale emergency drill Friday at Redbird Arena that included a reunification process between parents and students.
The evacuation procedure from U-High to Redbird Arena is the first of its kind, according to Illinois State University Emergency Manager Eric Hodges. Hodges said bringing parents and students together away from U-High increases public safety.
"We have a site we're fortunate that's close enough that both schools, Metcalf and U-High, can just walk to. And we let the students and parents know ahead of time that if there's an emergency, come here," Hodges said.
Hodges said this prevents panic for parents wanting to pick up their child after an evacuation. The reunification process was shortened to three hours for Friday's drill. Hodges said a real emergency reunification could take four to six hours. He said a similar process at a bigger high school like Normal West could take eight to 10 hours.
The drill's emergency scenario simulated students evacuating U-High as if a tornado significantly damaged the building. Some students were "injured" or "killed" during the drill. Faculty and staff members played the roles of those parents finding out those outcomes happened to their children.
Illinois State University spokesperson Eric Jome said the real parents of those kids who were "injured" or "killed" were not asked to play those roles in order to decrease the emotional exhaustion of the event.
Some students acted as kids with special needs, so faculty could practice accommodating them. Some of those needs included being disabled, blind, diabetic, asthmatic or severely anxiety-ridden.
Around 600 U-High students and 200 parents participated in the drill. Freshman Lindsey Shouse reunited with her mother. She said these practices are important for she and her classmates.
"I think it's a good experience because if something like this happens, the parents and the students are prepared," Shouse said. "I just think it's really good that we're doing this."
In case of emergency, parents are notified through email and phone. Information is also posted on the school's website. Hodges said 500 surveys were distributed to students and parents to evaluate the drill. He said he's received some preliminary emails from parents happy with the drill.
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