Tornado Drill Reveals Bottleneck Evacuation Routes


Eppstein Uhen Architects

Some teachers had to adjust on the fly to crowded sheltering locations during Thursday’s tornado drill, including in the area near the locker room in the North wing. MHS Administration is reworking routes and locations for safety in severe weather events.

Lauren Lamson

On Thursday, April 7, Middleton High School (MHS) joined schools around the state in the annual statewide tornado drill. The tornado drill was the first conducted in the new building. 

The administration’s goal was to test out the new building and make sure students and staff had a chance to practice safety in the new spaces. Brad Crandell, Assistant Athletic Director and Activities Coordinator, orchestrated the drill. 

“Every evacuation space is new this year. Because of the new construction, the lack of space on the south side, it’s all brand new,” Crandell explained. 

Thursday allowed students and staff to test out the new shelter routes and locations throughout the building, and Crandell and the administration, who were stationed throughout the building during the drill, were glad to note few differences between the new and old buildings as far as the efficiency of sheltering. 

At 1:45, students and staff left their classrooms to shelter as an automated tornado siren and announcement blared over the PA system in some classrooms and sounded quietly in others. 

“In certain parts of the building, we could hear [the alarm] outside better than inside,” Crandell said. “That is an issue that we are working through with the speakers. A lot of it has to do with old speakers and parts of the building that are getting replaced next year, for next year, versus the new speakers [in the new building.]”

Another problem the district will be solving over the summer is communication of the severe weather watch. Staff were supposed to get a tornado watch alert on their phones from the district at 1:15, which did not happen. 

“We reported that up to the district,” Crandell said. “They’re going to work on it to see why it didn’t work at MHS.”

Some areas of the building deemed safe for sheltering got too crowded during the drill, including the staircases in the old building’s three story stack. As classes from the second floor headed to the first floor and third floor classes tried to enter the second floor, the doorways to the stairs became bottlenecks. After eliciting feedback from teachers through a survey sent out Thursday, Crandell has already decided to switch the routes in the old building to have second floor classes remain in their hallway and third floor classes descend two stories to the ground level.

More routes will be reworked this summer by MCPASD administration, using feedback from Thursday’s drill as they work with an outside company that draws the maps according to building blueprints. Crandell, Director of Technology Jim Blodgett, and Director of Facilities Dale Rhodes will walk every route for both evacuations and weather shelter events. 

Going into next year, Crandell is confident protocols will run more smoothly now that MHS has had the chance to see where the glitches are. 

Further, students and staff responded excellently during the drill. “It’s hard to take these drills seriously when you know it’s not happening,” Crandell acknowledged. “[Students and teachers] all took it very seriously and they did what they needed to do… It was perfect.”

The administration has yet to decide a date and type of the next safety drill in May. They are trying to balance practicing drills required by the state with not complicating things for students at stressful times of the year, such as right before finals.

Despite a few hiccups, the new MHS campus proved to be a safe space for students and staff during severe weather. The few crowding issues in both the old and new buildings will be resolved by administration before the 2022-2023 school year.