Firefighters take part in emergency drill with Hamilton Heights students to ease anxiety, answer questions

ARCADIA, Ind.– Students at Hamilton Heights Primary and Elementary Schools participated in a special fire drill Friday morning, alongside Franklin Township and Cicero Volunteer firefighters.

The fire drills were aimed at reducing students’ fear and anxiety when responding to emergency drills, one week after the mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida.

Jackson Township Fire Chief, Jeff Muszar, said after the Florida shooting, some students were concerned about how they should react to a fire drill.

“We’ve not had a fire drill here since the incident, but we have had a lot of questions,” said Cliff Hackman, the school safety specialist for Hamilton Heights School Corporation.  “We wanted to be proactive and make sure that everyone was going to be calm, collected and feel supported. Our number one goal is to keep our children safe, but we also want to make sure they socially and emotionally are able to do these drills so that they are effective.”

The school participates in these drills each month classes are in session.

Hackman said students and staff were alerted before Friday's drill. The drill started with a call on the loud speaker, where Hackman alerted children of what was going to take place.

Then, students were led by their teachers as they exited through the front door of the building. Once students were outside, their teachers counted to make sure all of students were accounted for. If they were, they held up a green sign reading, "ok."

"Our kids react to this and they are amazing," Hacker said. "Our teachers are absolutely amazing at working with our students through any kind of safety drill."

After students and staff got the "all-clear," they went back inside to their classrooms where they were able to ask firefighters questions. The students made it outside to their safety spots in under a minute and a half.

"We're just working on situational awareness with school emergencies," said Muszar. "We're trying to help the children put faces to the firemen in fire drills to make them feel more comfortable, so when they actually have a real fire drill or emergency, they'll know us and it just makes them feel more comfortable and more at ease."

Jackson Township and Cicero Volunteer Firefighters say they will be at more school drills, visiting each school in the district.