Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Test After Test

Are you ready for the test?

FEMA and FCC Plan Nationwide Emergency Alert Test for Oct. 4; Test Messages Will be Sent to All TVs, Radios and Cell Phones

You’ve probably heard about it. It will be at 2:20 pm. There’s been quite a bit about it online and in the news in order to educate the public. You know the drill: 

This is only a test. If this had been a real emergency…

We've been having a lot of tests lately. Tests to confirm mold in the Oakland Mills High School Library. Tests to ascertain the safety of our water supply. Then there are tests in a more general sense, such as the appearance of a fledgling Moms4Liberty group which will test our resolve to be a welcoming, affirming, and anti-racist community. The Republicans in Congress participated in some sort of test yesterday, the object of which is largely unclear. 

Last night brought another kind of test. Students at Morgan State were tested on their knowledge of how to survive an active shooter.

But it wasn’t only a test. It was a real emergency.

Ten years ago I shared a post called “Expectations” from HoCoHouseHon which recounted her experiences as a chaperone on a school trip to a Renaissance Fair. 

When I was little, going to the faire, I heard a lot of things, from recorders to hammered dulcimers to cannon blast and gunshots. I knew the music and I knew what blank ammunition sounded like. It scared me at first, sure, to see a man pull out a pistol and shoot somebody (who of course, didn't bleed) but soon enough I figured out that it was pretend, just like their costumes and renfaire personas. 

The kids I watched over yesterday initially found that music boring, but when they heard the gunshots, the cannons, they immediately stopped talking. Some of them ducked. Some of them hit the ground as if their lives depended on it. 

I am not exaggerating. These reactions were those kids' expectations - this was what you were supposed to do. 

Some tests are drills, to train you to have the correct response when the time comes and that response is extremely important. Some tests are to find an answer - - such as the ones for mold and parasites. Some tests are meant to determine if you know what is required/have mastered the necessary skills. But where is the test that will absolutely, positively keep children and young people safe in schools?

How many times do we have to explain to our children what's happening on the news? How many duck and cover drills, how many shelter in place routines do they have to endure before it becomes normal or even expected? I remember my first shelter in place experience - and it wasn't when I was little, but when I was teaching. A classroom full of first graders huddled away from the doors and windows, utterly silent, and none of them were moved by it but I most certainly was. They grew up with it, were growing up in a world of school shootings, domestic violence, domestic terrorism. 

Every incident is a test for us. Will we allow this? Will we do something? Will we care enough and be motivated enough to follow through and take action?

This is a test. It is also a real emergency.

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