Safely Conducting Disaster Drills

Safely Conducting Disaster Drills

By Kevin Bartsch, Assistant Director Workers Compensation Pool Operations, and Brenda Koch, School Risk Manager


This edition of “In the Classroom” provides information, tips, and strategies to assist with following SB213, the 2023 Montana Senate Bill 213 that revised laws associated with school safety, as identified within 20-1-401; 20-9-236 and 52-2-211 MCA. 


20-1-401 MCA focuses on facilitating disaster drills, identifying disaster risks, and annually adopting school safety plans. As defined by law, “disaster” entails the occurrence of – or imminent threat of – damage, injury, or loss of life or property.  Conducting regular drills that teach safe responses to disasters is critical and mandatory.  Unfortunately, historical data shows that employees experience accidents and injuries during these types of drills.  Many of these injuries involve extensive, high-cost claims that impact your rates and the entire worker compensation program.  Against this backdrop, the information below is provided to help you conduct these drills as safely as possible and to minimize staff and student injury. 


·       Although unannounced drills are generally the most effective for those participating, you should alert appropriate school and community members about when a drill will occur. 


·       Because children base their reactions on adult behavior, school staff, and teachers should be encouraged to model calm and confidence when participating in the drills. Accordingly, those facilitating the drills should avoid using frightening and unnecessary theatrics, including running, screaming, and simulating injuries and explosions. 


·       Do not ask drill participants to exit through windows, to run, to tackle another person, or to move or climb on furniture. Also, please do not use simulated or actual weapons in any drill involving students.


·       Drills should be conducted on a “walk-through” basis, as opposed to at full speed.  This walk-through approach will achieve the same intended outcome and reduce the potential for injuries.


·       For the purposes of the drill, consider and address necessary accommodations for employees and students. To help prevent injuries, do not ask staff to participate in portions of the drill they are not capable of performing.  Rather, practice how the accommodations for these individuals flow into the drill.


·       We recommend you have a post-drill debrief with your staff to identify what went well and areas of improvement. During this debrief, it is also important you document any incidents or accident/injury investigations; and if anyone is injured, please follow your district’s accident reporting protocols immediately.


A couple of final notes about SB213, 20-1-401 MCA revisions: Trustees must now review the school safety plans annually, and threat assessment practices must be included in the school safety plan.


With the implementation of SB213, emergency drills are of greater importance but always keep in mind drills need to be conducted in a safe manner.  The MSGIA is readily available to assist member districts in developing a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan and/or providing additional resources for these activities. 


We encourage you to become familiar with SB213, and as you conduct your district’s emergency drills, BE SAFE! Back to newsletter