“We are in lockdown,” announced a woman over the public address system at a South Carolina school. Students and teachers hunkered silently in darkened classrooms away from closed blinds and locked doors, while police officers with rifles worked their way through hallways decorated with student art, reports the Associated Press. This is how safety drills take place in schools today, reports the Associated Press. While the end of the Cold War removed the duck-and-cover exercises that had students crouching beneath desks under threat of an atomic bomb, the intent is the same: to protect against the unimaginable. Not all experts agree on how realistic the exercises need to be.
“It’s kind of scary. At least the kids know they’re preparing for it,” said a South Carolina parent. Most states started to require school emergency management plans after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Co., though the types of scenarios and preparation vary widely, says the Education Commission of the States. North Dakota, for example, added lockdown drills to the required fire, tornado and other disaster drills in 2011, while Minnesota has required at least five yearly lockdown drills since 2006. Various districts in Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina and Washington are among those that have used mock shooters to heighten the reality.