Opinion: Drills sound eerily like those in 50s, 60s

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2016

History repeats itself. That is a statement I’ve heard all my life, but there was never clearer proof it is true than what I saw recently on television.

First let me say, I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s – that golden time everyone seems to want to relive. Well, during those wonder years, there was a lot of fear the Russians, our enemy of choice, were going to launch a nuclear attack any minute.

So, to “protect and prepare” us for what could happen, students learned something called duck-and-cover. It went like this if a warning came or, God forbid, there was a giant flash of light overhead, you immediately ducked under something for protection and covered your head.

In school, that meant we dove under our desks. I never understood what was going to happen next, but I knew I needed to be under something and that not being under something meant certain death.

Another way we knew a bomb was coming was the sound of the fire siren blowing continuously. In those days, a citywide siren went off to summon the firefighters to the station. It blew to get their attention and then it stopped. During nuclear fear frenzy, they told us a continuous siren meant an attack was about to happen.

What I remember most is feeling fear that I would be at school when the siren went off, alone and away from my family. It was a frightening thought for a kid.

So how is history repeating itself? Well, I saw a story about the new drills they are teaching kids. This time it is not bombs they survive but mass shooters.

Yep, duck-and-cover is now “run-hide-fight.” It works like this if an active shooter shows up at school:



Have an escape route and plan in mind

Leave your belongings behind

Keep your hands visible


Hide in an area out of the shooter’s view

Block entry to your hiding place and lock the doors

Silence your cell phone and/or pager


As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger

Attempt to incapacitate the shooter

Act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter


I can only imagine how frightened a third grader feels when he or she thinks about throwing a notebook or lunchbox at someone with a gun.

Like duck-and-cover, run-hide-fight has videos to teach kids what to do and there are practice drills. While being prepared for nuclear war or mass shooters is not necessarily a bad thing, experts don’t think it is the solution or that it will even work. In fact, there are lists of reasons why these kinds of trainings don’t work most of the time.

Thankfully, adults in my childhood world figured out stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons was a better solution. (Even though bombs don’t kill people, people pushing buttons to launch bombs kill people, right?)

Still, knowing what to do in a nuclear situation or an active shooter event is surely good and effective.

Well to answer that, I remember what happened the day the fire siren was stuck and everyone thought the big bomb might be on the way. Did we duck and cover like we learned? Did people rush to the safest place in the center of their homes, away from windows and doors?


Everyone in my neighborhood ran onto their front lawns and looked up to the heavens mumbling, “Is this real?”

No ducking, no covering just panic and fear. It scared me and other neighborhood kids, who forgot all the drills and stood in the sunshine staring up at the sky waiting for the end to come.

Yep, history repeats itself. Wouldn’t it be nice if it repeated itself and we figured out, that like reducing nuclear weapons reduced the chances of nuclear war, reducing the number of assault weapons might cut down on mass shootings?

Oh wait, silly me I forgot — guns don’t kill people…

Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.