By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
PINE TOPS —
PINETOPS — South Edgecombe Middle School students on Tuesday had a departure from their usual post-lunchtime routine. At the sounding of a long bell, they got down on their knees in the hallway and covered their heads with their hands.
The students joined thousands of others in Edgecombe County Public Schools participating in the tornado drill.
“I think the students responded well,” said South Edgecombe Principal Kevin Cutler. “It’s a learning experience for everybody.”
Alex Hogan, a seventh grader, learned where to go in the case of a tornado and what procedure to follow.
“You start at the water fountain and go back. You get down on your knees. You cover the back of your head,” said Hogan.
For the tornado drills, Cutler said school administration tries to pick the “innermost wall – the most protected.” Cutler pointed to the front foyer of the school building and asked Hogan if that would be a good place to have a tornado drill. Hogan responded,
“Why not?” Cutler asked.
“The windows and all the glass,” Hogan responded.
Joshua Hunter, a seventh grader, said he learned how to listen and follow directions during the drill.
“Listen when you’re being told so you won’t get hurt,” Hunter said. “Being serious, following directions, because something might happen. You don’t know when it’s going to happen.”
Cutler said students practice the tornado drills in different parts of the building, so they’ll be prepared in the case of a tornado striking at any time of the day.
Dawson Deal, also a seventh grader, practiced the drill as if it were an actual crisis situation.
“You have to be serious and not talk and you’ve got to stay away from windows,” Deal said. “If it was a real one, you wouldn’t want to be laughing and stuff.”
Yasmeen Lewis, an eighth grader, said she thought the drill was a success because of “how fast we got down and situated.”
Aaron Drake, also an eighth grader, said he thinks the students should try to “get down quicker” next time.
As in any drill/ learning experience, there’s always room for improvement, said Cutler. The tornado drill was the second safety drill at the school in the past month. The school had a lockdown drill in September.
“Parents are entrusting us with their child’s safety during the day, and I think it’s important for students and staff to know what to do in an emergency situation,” Cutler said. “It’s part of the total school experience.”
Kristian Herring, public information officer for ECPS, echoed those thoughts.
“As a part of our commitment to ensure student and staff safety, the Edgecombe County Public Schools (ECPS) system conducts safety drills at least once monthly,” Herring said. “As one of the five core values for Edgecombe County Public Schools is ‘safe schools,’ our safety drills are an effort on the part of the school system to prepare our students and staff members for emergency situations. Through proper preparation and a detailed analysis of our efforts, ECPS ensures that our 14 schools are a safe place for our students to learn and our staff members to educate our students.”