Arkansas Department of Education Division of Elementary and Secondary Education Emergency Response Drills 2021-2022

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Memo Number
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Memo Type
Facilities & Transportation
Regulatory Authority
Response Required
Superintendents; Assistant Superintendent; Principals; Data Stewards (SIS; eSchool; eFinance; TRIAND)

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Memo Text

In light of the current public health emergency, DESE has worked with the DESE Safe Schools Committee and Major Lindsey Williams, the State Fire Marshal, to establish guidelines and modifications regarding public school districts’ compliance with requirements to conduct emergency response drills, including without limitation: 

  • Fire evacuation – monthly (Ark. Code Ann. § 12-13-109)
  • Tornado safety drills, Earthquake safety drills – (Sep., Jan., Feb.) (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-121) 
  • Lockdown drill - annual (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-1303)
  • Bus emergency evacuation – twice each year (CAPSAFT School Bus Rules, 4.01.4)
  1. Emergency response drills should be carried out as close to how they would be carried out in an actual emergency, while allowing for COVID-19 precautions.
  2. Districts should work closely with local emergency management and response officials to review emergency response plans and procedures and modify, if necessary. Districts should also consult with local officials to ensure awareness of local requirements that may differ from state requirements.  
  3. Public school districts should conduct fire, tornado, and other emergency drills requiring evacuation of students, in small groups or cohorts instead of the entire school or district at the same time to ensure appropriate social distancing and safety precautions are followed. The “small group” should be determined by the district but examples include, without limitation, individual classrooms, hallways, buildings, sections of a building, a particular grade-level, or other similar basis.
  4. Reporting requirements for fire evacuation and tornado drills in Cycles 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7, will not require a specified number of minutes and seconds for completion of the drill, since drills should not be conducted as a whole. Districts must still report that the drill was completed and should maintain a record of completion times for use in local planning and consultation with emergency response officials. 
  5. Bus emergency evacuation drills should also be conducted with small groups. The usual process of practicing exiting the rear of the bus should be temporarily suspended to prevent direct contact among students. Verbal instruction and video demonstration should be used when possible. 
  6. It is recommended that masks are worn by students and staff during drills if social distancing is not possible.
  7. If the drill involves students exiting the classroom or building, students should be distanced as soon as practicable. 
  8. Videos may be used to supplement drills but not as a replacement. Additional instruction may be necessary to ensure students and staff are aware of modified procedures. Consider adding debriefings following drills for discussion with staff and students.  
  9. Districts should review local policies, and revise if necessary, to ensure the flexibility to comply with Arkansas Department of Health guidelines and state mandates. 
  10. Students attending solely through virtual means are not required to participate in emergency response drills. However, students who attend on-site even for a limited time should participate, if present, and be made aware of emergency response procedures. 
  11. During this time, address the social-emotional needs of students and staff who may already be experiencing anxiety before adding on the possible effects of emergency response drills.


These modifications apply only during the COVID-19 public health emergency as declared by Governor Hutchinson. 

For questions regarding bus evacuation drills, please contact Mike Simmons at (501) 682-4497 or

For questions regarding all other drills, please contact Kenneth Johnson at (501) 683-1295 or


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