False Alarm?

Scary situations spark interest in school safety at Elkhorn North.
Firefighters arrive at the school after a fire alarm went off on September 5, 2023. All students were evacuated outside the building.
Firefighters arrive at the school after a fire alarm went off on September 5, 2023. All students were evacuated outside the building.
Photo by Chloe Healy

Since the beginning of the school year, multiple fire alarms have gone off and there was a minor school shooting threat. Students wonder what caused these situations and what was done about them.

On September 5, two unplanned fire alarms were set off throughout the school day. The first incident was caused by a student in the bathroom. Not much can be said, but this student has faced consequences.

“Whenever you evacuate 1000 students from the building, bring in the fire department, and stop the learning of our children, it is a significant disruption to the normal school day,” principal Dan Radicia said. “There are school consequences, and it’s generally the suspendable type.”

The second incident was caused by athletic director Luke Ford. He was popping popcorn in the concession stand, and the smoke that was produced set off another alarm. There was a problem with the smoke alarm head that was installed in the concession stand, but it will be changed so this doesn’t happen again.

“Mr. Ford decided to give the firefighters some popcorn when they arrived,” Radicia said.

Both times the alarm went off, all students were evacuated from the building.

“It was kind of a hassle that we had to go outside so many times,” student council member Quinn Carney said. “In some of those classes I had tests scheduled, so it was kind of nice that we didn’t have to take them.”

Apart from this, there was also a school shooting threat during the first week of school. The school received a tip from the Boys Town Hotline, and they took it very seriously. Parents were notified and many precautions were taken.

“We took it seriously, investigated it, and notified the authorities,” Radicia said.

School security has become an important issue all over America in recent years. At Elkhorn North, there are many safety protocols and technologies to protect students in case of an emergency.

“It’s one of the biggest things I do in my role, and that involves school safety in terms of their interactions with their environment and among each other,” Radicia said.

On the outside of the building, there are many cameras and good surveillance. On the inside, the building is constructed to have a vestibule or mantrap. At the entrance, you have to press a button to get in and go through the office. All doors are locked during the day, and there is constant screening.

The school is also required to run safety drills. There are quarterly intruder alert drills, and fire evacuation drills once a month until it gets too cold.

All three high schools in the district have school resource officers (SROs), and many middle schools are starting to have them as well. These officers are specially trained to deal with any violence that may occur at the school.

“We have active shooter training downtown to simulate what a school shooting would be like,” school resource officer Adam Weaver said. “We use sim guns that shoot paintball-type ammunition, and there are multiple people involved along with an assailant.”

All of the safety precautions at school are noticed by students.

“I feel safe in school because we have good staff and a good school police officer,” sophomore Ella Jackson said.

The school staff takes mental and physical health seriously as well. They follow up with parents, counselors, and students to see where they’re at in their mental well-being. There are also first aid kits and tourniquet kits in the building, as well as a crisis response team that is trained in CPR.

“In terms of increased priority from Elkhorn public schools, school safety is a big rock that we’re tackling,” Radicia said.

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