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2023 ACS Holds Mock Safety Drill

Media Release 


ACS Conducts Mock Drill

By: Denita Dowell-Reavis


Alexander County Schools held a mock tornado drill at Ellendale Elementary Schools on Monday, February 20th. The practice was conducted with Alexander County Emergency Management, Emergency Services, the Fire Marshal’s office, Iredell County Emergency Management, and the local sheriff and police departments. Nearly 70 school staff members played the role of teachers, students, and administrators for the training.

At 9:38, participants were told on the intercom that there was a tornado watch. In a watch situation in the building, students and staff carry on with regular activities but prepare to move into the halls in case of a warning. Nearly five minutes later, the organizers called a tornado warning. Then, administrators learned of a partial gym collapse and injuries.

Hiddenite teacher Dani Simpson played the role of  one of the injured. 

“Today really opened my eyes to situations I never thought of like the fire alarm going off at the same time as a tornado drill. So I think it’s important for us to think through these things and discuss them,” says Simpson.

Sugar Loaf Elementary Principal Joe Mabry was the acting principal during the drill. As the situation changed, things were coming at him quickly.

“You’re trying to process all the information and you’re making split-second decisions that impact people’s lives, so I think that’s the hardest part. You’re trying to make the best decision you can with the information that you have but knowing that you’ve got people’s lives on the line,” says Mabry.

Daniel Fox with Emergency Management planned the exercise. 

He says, “I think it went really well. Everybody responded a lot quicker and more efficient; they handled the situation very well, better than expected, honestly.”

Fox will go back to a local safe schools group to reevaluate 

“Emergency management is all about preparedness; that’s our main goal, planning and preparedness. We’ve worked with the safe schools committee to continue to grow in preparedness and I think that’s helping us find areas we can improve on, things we’re doing great, just to create a safer atmosphere for our students, our teachers and staff and it’s just an ongoing process” says Fox. 

The group played forward how they would account for all the students in an emergency situation and how they would move them to an area to reunify with parents if the buses on property were damaged from the storm. 

Dr. Alisha Cloer serves as the safety director for Alexander County Schools and helped plan the drill. She says it went well, but there is room for improvement.

“As a group we learned that we need to look at our method for communications because in an event like that there could be power lines down, there could be phone lines down, so we need to look at alternate methods for that,” says Cloer. 

Participants agree the exercise helps keep safety measures at the front of their minds. Still, teacher Simpson says parents can be reassured.

“We are constantly thinking about it and talking about it. And even though this kind of drill is a once a year maybe twice a year thing, we’re still discussing it all the time at school within the teacher level, the administrator level, and the county level,” says Simpson.

Organizers also discussed planning in case someone with a key player on the day of the event happened to be absent. They were reminded to plan substitutes for certain roles.