Unplanned lockdown caused by unlabeled button


Photo by Reyah Doshi

An unplanned ALICE lockdown Friday was caused by an emergency button with no label, interim NNHS Principal Jay Wachtel said in an interview Tuesday. 

The button was accidentally pressed by a staff member, causing staff and students to barricade or evacuate their classrooms under the assumption there was an active shooter in the building. Wachtel said the label had been temporarily removed as part of a construction project. Along with continuing training for staff and students, Wachtel said they will ensure that all emergency buttons are properly labeled.

“Being the second Friday in-school returning to in-person learning, there was already a level of discomfort, so this just added to that. I acknowledge that it added to that and I wish it hadn’t happened at this time,” Wachtel said. “But, I think our community responded really well.”

Within minutes of the alarm going off, a PA announcement declared the lockdown to be accidental, allowing classes to return to normal instruction. Staff and students have prepared for active shooter situations by practicing ALICE procedure, which allows individuals to make the best decisions for their situation, either barricading in their rooms or evacuating the building. Despite the training, the unplanned lockdown caused confusion and fear among many in the building and those witnessing the situation online.

In an interview with The North Star, Wachtel said he was proud of the way staff and students responded, despite the uncertainty regarding the flexible nature of ALICE procedure. 

“People did great. One thing we heard was that people weren’t sure what to do, they didn’t know if they should barricade or lockdown or evacuate. The answer is yes,” Wachtel said. “The tricky part about that is you never are sure if you’re doing the right thing which I think can be a little bit frustrating for a lot of people. There is no perfect answer.”

While lockdown drills are necessary to ensure preparation, Wachtel adds that official drills will never be a surprise to North staff members.

“One of the things that is for sure true is that we never do a lockdown drill without ample warning for staff,” Wachtel said.

Despite the preparations the school will continue to take to ensure the safety of the students, Wachtel emphasized the importance of spur-of-the-moment critical thinking in emergency situations. With that comes responding properly to all alarms in the building.  

“In the future, when you hear the alert go off, take it seriously,” Wachtel said.