Be ready: Tam prepares emergency, natural disaster readiness

By Elisa Cobb

“I was kind of scared. I called my mom and told her what was happening. Personally, I did feel ready to evacuate. I was surrounded by my friends and it seemed like there were no complications from my point of view,” sophomore Selby Orlanski said.

Students and staff were then evacuated to the Mill Valley Recreation where they could be picked up by parents and be dismissed from there. 

There have been 51 school shootings in the United States in 2022 alone. Since 2018, there has been a total of 129; within these shootings, 110 people were injured and 30 were killed; 27 of these deaths were students and three were school staff. 

California wildfires have surpassed the five-year average of 6,650 fires by a colossal 6,739 wildfires, causing delaying starts to the school year for many students, and the National Earthquake Information Center now estimates that 20,000 earthquakes occur yearly, about 55 per day. With these statistics and the growing crisis that threaten education, it is more important than ever to be prepared for what could happen.

Living in Mill Valley, where natural disasters and emergencies are mostly uncommon, it could be easy for locals and residents to not see the risks that come with wherever you live.


Share 911 App

One way that Tam High is implementing emergency readiness into its community is the Share 911 app. Share 911 is an app, preferably used on a cell phone, that will eventually alert students, parents, and staff of an emergency within the campus that could jeopardize campus safety. Currently, the app is used only by staff, but is meant to be eventually expanded to students and parents. It is meant to keep the school in contact with the administration and any other useful resources in the event of an emergency. 

Share 911 has already been introduced to Tam’s staff in the beginning of October. 

“If there is any natural disaster or active shooter situation, you will be able to get alerted on your phone. It’s in its testing phases right now where only the staff have it. Then, eventually, students will have it and then eventually parents will have it,” campus supervisor Lynette Engleauf said. 

So far, the app has had no major negative impacts or complications. Tara Ranzy, Tam High’s new assistant principal, is head of safety at Tam and believes, like most staff, that Share 911 is a step in the right direction for Tam’s emergency and natural disaster readiness but also understands that we need to see the full effects of it all the way through. 

“The way I judge a system or program is based on its effectiveness,” Ranzy said. 

Another vital part of being ready for an emergency or natural disaster is communication. By implementing Share 911 into the school, it is important that the system works for everyone. “One thing about this community and my impression of leadership is that they are open to feedback,” Ranzy said, responding to how the future response of the app will impact the Tam community. 

Something that makes Share 911 different from other resources for emergencies is the “two-way communication feature.” This feature allows staff to account for students whether that means the students are in danger, need help, or are safe. This is confirmed to other staff by tapping the “check-in” button. Share 911 also will send out multiple notifications communicating with staff what the emergency or natural disaster is.

“It’s a great tool for everybody to get information quickly if they have to and stay away from somewhere. It would be hard for me to miss a message,” Tam’s health specialist Lisa Callaghan said. 


Tam’s Preparedness

Share 911 is one beneficial way to upgrade readiness, however, Tam also performs in other ways for each part of its community to make sure it is efficiently prepared. 

Forty-two states require schools to conduct safety or security drills. Teachers recommend that schools perform safety drills at least once a month. Things like walk-throughs, ensuring Tam has the necessary equipment, and earthquake, fire, and lockdown drills are meant to benefit Tam’s staff and students in the event of an emergency. 

Ranzy has big goals for Tam to take strong steps to be prepared. One of Ranzy’s main goals for this year is to perform a “full-out evacuation,” which was done in fall semester.

A full-out evacuation entailed all of the school practicing evacuating to a main destination as fast and efficiently as possible. If Tam were to execute this drill, it could advance its readiness for an emergency or disaster. 

“I would want to do a full-out evacuation, huge accomplishment. That will be a big deal if … [when] I do that,” Ranzy said. 

Tam also participates in monthly leadership meetings with other districts to continue to implement ways to make our campus even more ready. Ranzy and other administrators will also be partaking on “walk-throughs.” These “walk-throughs” are to make sure that each classroom has the correct and necessary supplies in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. 

The supplies that are distributed to each classroom are in a 1-by-12-gallon black box with a yellow cover. These boxes are called “Classroom Emergency Kits.” The emergency bin is filled with 17 2400-calorie food bars, 34 packets of water, one first aid kit, one LED flashlight, three emergency blankets, and 35 white reusable face masks. These bins also include an emergency toilet. 

Tam’s teachers are also expected to be prepared for emergencies and natural disasters. “Teachers receive training at different times, or beginning of [the] year,” Tam world language teacher Susan Malanche said. 

Malanche has been a teacher at Tam since 2011, minus two years abroad, and participated in Tam’s protocols and drills for an extensive period. “I feel prepared as a teacher. I follow all directions from the district,” Malanche said.  

Like many teachers, Malanche participates in preparing with regular communication, staff meetings, and new updated procedures. While Tam does practice emergency readiness, students feel less ready and prepared. 

“From what I see, we [students] don’t pay attention during our drills or any sort of practice for emergencies or natural disasters,” Orlanski said. 

“Teachers have a unique opportunity and an obligation to impart their emergency preparedness knowledge onto their students, particularly in areas where disasters are common, so they can take appropriate and potentially life-saving action during a disaster, even if their parent is not present,” Emergency Essentials, a website centered around emergency preparedness stated. 

Callaghan has the responsibility of relaying medications to students that need them and providing health kits in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. 

“I’m responsible for bringing rescue meds for students that need them. In case anyone has a cut or something like that, I have a kit for that, and then I also have a first aid kit that I take before leaving the building,” Callaghan said. 

Other parts of being well prepared for these events are participating in drills with the whole school, and collaborating with other specialists in her field. As part of collaborating and discussing new important emergency and natural disaster matters, Callaghan will collaborate and train with administrative assistant, Nancy Parnow. 

When it comes to students, it is mainly a given to participate in drills and practice protocol in the event of an emergency. 

“We are doing our drills and going over everything and when we have had an episode where we thought there was an active shooter, everybody locked down and it went really well,” Callaghan said in response to Tam’s efficiency. 

Engelauf, who is a Tam alumni, has participated in emergency preparedness as a student and now as a staff member. 

“When I did go here, I would say that we were prepared for any natural disaster, because we did go through a lot drills and a lot of our students knew ‘Alright if anything does happen, go to the football/baseball field–that was where the safety zones were,” Engelauf said. 

Campus supervisors are also prepared for these events by knowing and practicing certain protocols. In the event of any natural disaster or emergency, campus supervisors will always be in contact over their radios waiting for communication. 

For example, if an earthquake happened during school, campus supervisors will immediately communicate with other supervisors or staff over their radios. When the shaking is done they go around to check their zones. 

Each supervisor is assigned a certain section of the school. The sections are predetermined every week and throughout the entire school year, “It changes every week,” Engleauf said. After analyzing their zone, they then proceed to evacuate everyone to the football field. 

On the other hand, in the event of a school shooter, campus supervisors are expected to go around checking every single door to make sure teachers have followed correct protocols of covering all windows and barricading the doors. 

“It is our job to make sure that all students are hidden somewhere. So when there is an active shooter situation, the only people that should be running around campus during that time are campus supervisors and administrators assistants, just checking their own zones, and then we go hide ourselves,” Engleauf said. 


Importance of Being Prepared 

“We have grown up in a world where we all jump when a balloon pops. In a world where we have to scan every single exit and the movements of our classmates at school,” CSU(California State University) student Santiago Mayer, director of Voters of Tomorrow said, while protesting gun violence and expressing what Generation Z has now had to normalize their lives around these events. 

“Nothing is more important than your life. If some of us can remember we can guide the rest of the community in the right direction,” Ranzy said. 

“If you practice it and go through the drill, when something bad does happen, you kinda have [an] idea of what to do; you’re not just shell shocked,” Engleauf said. 



Like most schools, there will be rules that are bent and stretched. Although this can provide humor or entertainment for some, specifically students, past school emergencies have not been centered around entertainment.

With Tam holding one of the higher student populations in Marin County at 1,590 students and the campus being the size of some junior colleges, the responsibilities are not only higher, but need to be held by many more students. 

“Safety is going to look different from a traditional campus, the larger the population the more challenging the communication,” Ranzy said. The campus is large and spread out, and in ways that could decrease the effectiveness of safety measures.

The top two most fatal U.S. school shootings all have an average of over a 1,000 student population. Columbine High School has an enrollment of 1,697 and the shooting resulted in 13 fatalities, and 24 injured. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, also has an average of over 1,000 students, with their current student population at 3,333. During the shooting, there were 17 fatalities, and 17 injured. 

“We are in charge of, what? Almost 1,200 kids are at this campus, so it’s very important that we are all on the same court and students know what we expect of them,” Engelauf said. 

Tam’s growing student population only strengthens the hold on importance for people to care and understand what is at stake. 

Many Tam staff can agree with each other that expectations need to be followed not just by staff but by students. “There are ways that students can be aware of situations that are harmful, [the] goal is we don’t want them but we need to be prepared,” Malanche said. 

“The students need to take it seriously,” Chavez said. In comparison, some students feel that the preparedness is a easier topic and not as complicated as they feel teachers see it to be, “Honestly, whenever I’ve been in a class and we are doing drills and learning what to do, it seems like everyone is paying attention to the important things,” sophomore Annica Harris said. 


What to Know

In the event of an emergency or natural disaster, staying calm and knowing your surroundings can put you even closer to safety. 

“As individuals struggle to cope with these stressful situations, human interactions can often become strained and the need to support each other is stronger than ever,” the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environment stated on its website.

Students make up so much of the school, so it is vital that they have the mental strength to get through these events especially if a student is by themself. “Be willing to follow the lead of [a] teacher, but be ready to lead yourself,” Ranzy said. 

It is more beneficial for the whole school when students can be very much present mentally, emotionally, and physically. Another source that Tam shows to its students is California State University’s Active Shooter Safety Training video. This video includes ways to be efficient and prioritize safety in the event of a school shooting. 

“The video gave me a really different perspective on how I would have to protect myself if something like a school shooting happened at Tam. It made me remember to be aware of my surroundings,” Harris said.

“[Being prepared is important] so we are not running around trying to figure out what to do. So we can jump into action and have our plan set up,” Callaghan said.