PHS evacuates to stadium


Meghan Fortunato

Students evacuate from Palatine High School to the Chic Anderson Stadium.

A chemical outbreak in the Social Studies department, room 251 caused a soft lock down near the end of second period on Sept. 29 2017. The soft lock down then turned into an evacuation drill causing every student and staff member in the Palatine High School building to relocate to the Chic Anderson Stadium.

“There was something there that was causing discomfort for the students,” Principal Gary Steiger said. “And at the time we didn’t really know what was going on other than there was a class of students with something weird in their room.”

The soft lock down was initiated to prevent students and staff out of the area that the chemical broke out in  until investigation happened to tell if the chemical was hazardous or not. After the air handlers were turned off, the office faculty decided that the next step to take was to evacuate the building until the chemical smell’s source could be determined.

“We made it a soft lock down at first because the bell was about to ring, and when we couldn’t figure out what exactly it was, we didn’t want to take any chances,” Steiger said. “We called the fire department and called for the evacuation.”

“The administrators did their job ,” sophomore Georgi Dimitrov said. “But it was very unorganized because we have never practiced something like this.”

An evacuation drill has not been done in a few years, meaning that the freshman and possibly sophomores have never had to relocate from the high school.

“I wasn’t scared or worried, just wondering if it was a major occurrence,” sophomore Tim Eterno said.

Little information was given during the actual occurrence, leading to short  bursts of confusion and anger as nobody knew what to do. The students were going based on instructions given in real time, and many were confused on the state of the seriousness of the situation.

“I was a bit worried about keeping track of my class because when you get out in a big open space, and you have kids in your class,” English teacher Eric Millstone said. “You want to make sure there’s accountability.”

Students nor faculty knew if they should try to find their homeroom class, or reconvene with their second period class which resulted in a large crowd in the walk way of the home side bleachers in the stadium.

“A meeting was [this past] Tuesday during lunch hours about what to do for drills,” Business teacher Cliff Watanuki said. “So they could be prepared.”

There was a meeting for the staff, but information had not been relayed to students. With the lack of knowledge for the upperclassmen, not having done the procedure since they were underclassmen and underclassmen not having done the drill at all, no one knew where to go.

“I don’t think they [teachers] handled it well,” senior Daniela Serrano said. “They didn’t know how to get us to our correct teachers.”

The source of the chemical that irritated the students in the class room is still unidentified, even after the Palatine fire department came.

“A student may have had pepper spray and unintentionally sprayed it.” Steiger said.