Disabled and injured students struggle during evacuation drills


Hannah Chan

Students walk the quad steps that lead toward the football field. This is just one of the many staircases all across Carlmont’s hilly campus.

Injuries and disabilities create a multitude of challenges when it comes to getting around Carlmont’s hilly campus. Injured or disabled students face added pressure during evacuations, regardless of whether they are a drill or a real situation.

During the month of October, several safety drills took place including an earthquake drill, a secure campus drill, and an evacuation drill. A real secure campus also occurred, where students and staff had to secure their classrooms and remain inside until it was deemed safe. 

Most students are at ease during evacuation drills. However, students who cannot keep up with their class have worries that slip the minds of others such as safely getting to the evacuation site. Sophomore Ben Shoop-Gardner uses a carbon fiber ankle foot orthosis (AFO) to stabilize his feet and ankles. Last year, he used a walker.

“It was extremely difficult because I would have to take a different route around another building just to get to the grass field,” Shoop-Gardner said.

Shoop-Gardner had to take the detour alone, forcing him to separate from his class. Though a little lost on the field, he was not unaccounted for because people were sent to find him. 

It was extremely difficult because I would have to take a different route around another building just to get to the grass field.”

— Ben Shoop-Gardner

According to the Big 5 Community Packet: Immediate Action Emergency Response for Schools 2021-2022, students and staff are required to help those with special needs to ensure the safety of all. 

“I think somebody should probably walk with [injured and disabled students],” Shoop-Gardner said.

This aligns with the rules which state that assistance and accompaniment are needed to evacuate those with walking devices like canes, crutches, or walkers.

Isabella Wachter, a junior, wears an ankle boot due to a sprained ankle and broken ligaments in her foot which hinders her walking abilities.

During the recent evacuation drill, Wachter recounted that it was hard to keep up with her class. She felt more relaxed because it was a drill, but she would feel differently in a real scenario.

Alexandra Chan

“I would be more scared that I’m going to be left behind,” Wachter said.

To ensure that all students have made it to the evacuation site, Gregg Patner, the administrative vice principal and head of school safety, gives special consideration to those with injuries or disabilities.

“Oftentimes, students with disabilities have a one-on-one aide, or there’s an instructional aide embedded in the classroom,” Patner said. “We’ve thought through about where they would be on the football field, so [their destination] would be closer to their classroom as opposed to the other end where they might have to walk further.” 

Another part of Carlmont’s evacuation plan is meeting at different locations depending on the situation. The football field was chosen for its familiarity, but the baseball field has been considered too. In the case where students and staff have to flee off campus, places like the Carlmont Shopping Center have been considered. This would require walking a lot farther than from a classroom to the field. 

“For students who are having difficulty because of physical handicap [whether] temporary like crutches or permanent, we would have different ways of transportation,” Patner said.

According to Patner, high priority is given to the safety of all people during an evacuation but emphasized consideration is also given to those with disabilities or injuries. 

“It’s not outrageous to think we [would] do something unique in an emergency situation to make sure that everyone is safe,” Patner said.