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How would your child's school handle a major emergency? Everett schools prepare with reunification drill

The drill teaches students and staff what to do if the school has to be evacuated.

EVERETT, Wash. — How would schools handle a major disaster like a fire or even a school shooting? 

How would parents find their kids and where would they pick them up?

Those were all questions that were answered in the Everett School District on Thursday.

The school day at Henry M. Jackson High in Mill Creek began with a test in preparedness. Students were alerted to leave class and begin boarding buses -- as if the school had to be evacuated.

"We have to plan for events that would require us to bus our students from campus," said Principal Lance Balla. "Of course, we hope that never happens but we feel that it's important too be prepared."

It's called a reunification drill.

Just as first responders train to deal with threats inside a school, teachers and students are training for what to do outside during an emergency. 

In this scenario, kids were bused to Everett's Memorial Stadium where they were met by district staff who began the process of contacting "parents" and assessing the students.

"Let's say we have a student who has been injured. We have places in the stadium for injured students. We have nurses and people who can take care of them," Assistant Principal Michelle Renee said.

On Thursday, volunteers portrayed parents who came to collect their kids.

They lined up outside the stadium and were put through a strict identification process to make sure no student ended up in the wrong hands.

From there the volunteers headed inside where they were matched with their students and the "families" were brought back together.

The low stress test brought plenty of smiles, but staff was also being trained to deal with much more tense circumstances.

"We know parents are going to be upset in this kind of an emergency," said Christopher Ferreira, safety and security coordinator for the Everett School District. "We ask our people to talk to them to bring their anxiety down. We also have mental health staff that's on hand here."

School resource officers and law enforcement from across Snohomish County also took part in the drill.

Afterwards, the group went through a debriefing session to determine what can be done to make the process smoother in the future.

When it was all over, the students headed back to Jackson High to resume their real school day having learned a lesson they hope they never have to put into action.

"Heaven forbid it ever happens," said Renee, "but if it does happen, we'll be ready. We'll know what to do." 

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