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Put to the test: Moulage drill prepares community for crisis

Photo credit: Katie Ray McKillop
Students sit in rows, and behind them, faculty members line up for attendance. Archer conducted a moulage drill by simulating an earthquake to evaluate strengths and weaknesses in their communication system Wednesday, Jan. 31. “I feel prepared if there were [an] emergency to happen,” Chloe Resnick (’24) said.

On Jan. 31 at 1:15 p.m, Archer’s PA system announced an earthquake drill. Students took cover under desks and tables and hid behind bookshelves. Once the “quake” was over, community members were told to evacuate to their assigned exit. Students, faculty and staff quietly filed out of the school and lined up on the Sport Court and front field. This was the beginning of Archer’s second-ever moulage drill; the first was conducted nine years ago.

Associate Head of School for Finance and Operations Jane Davis organized this drill and said its purpose was to test the efficiency and effectiveness of Archer’s emergency plan by simulating an emergency.

Students were given information about this drill during assemblies in the weeks leading up to it. Acting Director of Upper School Tracy Poverstein sent an email to upper schoolers the day before with more detailed information including the schedule for the day, and middle schoolers were notified about the schedule from Director of Academic Operations Kasey Nott’s weekly “Look Ahead” email. Classes were shortened to 45 minutes to allow time for this drill.

Davis coordinated this drill with the help of the security company Joffe Emergency Services. She said the school has been preparing for this drill since the beginning of the school year with team meetings and planning sessions.

“[The purpose is] to prepare ourselves in case there’s ever an emergency, so to practice our protocols for when, you know, we have to either close the campus or if there’s an earthquake,” Davis said, “just so that we can be prepared for the unforeseeable.”

Joffe assigned student and faculty actors to pretend they were injured or to act out during the drill, according to safety consultant at Joffe Olivia Ellison. She also said Joffe gave the actors a script to follow during the drill. Davis said that in the weeks leading up, the identities of the actors remained secret.

Once people lined up on the front lawn and Sport Court, class deans took attendance of students. Everyone was to remain quiet to ensure a proper head count.

“All of the faculty got us situated fast,” junior Phoebe Ramirez said.

After the initial roll call, school counselors and learning specialists set up crisis counseling to the side of the field to provide emotional support for students. Community members on the front lawn walked over and joined the students and faculty on the Sport Court for attendance to be taken again. Students were allowed to leave the sport court to use the restroom, but Business Office Associate Beth Downing had to write students names down and the time they left.

To entertain students during the hour-and-a-half on the Sport Court, teachers distributed cups of water and pretzels and passed out decks of cards and Jenga, among other games. Charlie Clayton (’25) said she was “pleasantly surprised.”

“I wasn’t expecting Archer to be prepared with the cards and the water and the pretzels,” Clayton said.

According to Davis, these moulage drills put Archer’s incident command structure to the test and identify flaws in the communication system for the different teams.

“[Archer’s] administration takes safety very seriously,” Ellison said. “I’m glad we got to partner with them.”

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About the Contributor
Katie Ray McKillop, Staff Reporter
Katie Ray McKillop joined The Oracle as a staff reporter in 2023. She is on the surf team and swim team at Archer. In her free time, Katie Ray enjoys painting, baking, reading, and spending time with her friends.

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