MOUNTAIN HOUSE — Fire alarms rang across Mountain House High School as a group of coughing students left a classroom building, yelling about a fire in the culinary arts classroom.
The imaginary fire was part of an emergency drill run by Lammersville Unified School District on Wednesday afternoon. It was designed to train students in evacuation procedures and let district employees try out their emergency response plans.
“We’re testing our system and helping us develop our emergency readiness,” Superintendent Kirk Nicholas said as he watched the drill. “We’re conducting the event to test where we are well organized and identify areas of improvement.”
As the drill kicked off with more than 800 students being directed to walk out to the southern playing fields, school employees and district officials broke into different teams to respond to the scenario.
Some were responsible for the triage of students with pretend injuries, while others worked on search and rescue and interacted with the parents who started to arrive.
“It’s a good idea in case of a big disaster,” said Wicklund Village resident Felicia Wong, whose son is a sophomore.
She said she volunteered to portray a parent picking up a student to help prepare herself for a possible emergency.
“It helps me to be aware of the procedures so I can get my son safely,” she said.
Melissa Loney, a freshman parent, said she chose to help because the drill would make sure students wouldn’t be blindsided during a real emergency.
Also taking part in the drill were members of the Mountain House Fire Department and deputies from the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department.
A deputy blocked the entrance to the campus with his police car while firefighters arrived at the school with engines and a ladder truck. After firefighters assessed the situation, they prepared hoses and began searching the buildings for missing students and staff.
Fire Chief Paul Tualla commended the school staff on getting the students evacuated quickly and efficiently.
A few students commented that they were glad the district planned the emergency drill.
“I learned to stay calm and stay with my class,” freshman Yasmine Picardo said.
Junior Aliyah Tijero said the drill was “really well organized,” while classmate Ramon Valencia said it was cool to see the firefighters checking the buildings.
The president of the LUSD board, Matthew Balzarini, said it was rewarding to see the drill come to life after a year of planning.
“I am very impressed with the work that has gone on here today,” Balzarini said. “A lot of lessons were learned today.”
Principal Ben Fobert told the staff that during the school day, they stood in for the parents of the students and must “aim to make sure the students are safe.”
District officials said that active drills would also be done at other district schools, in addition to tabletop exercises.