Midland (Mich.) High School will stage an emergency preparedness evacuation drill at Midland Community Stadium immediately after the Chemics' season-opening football game Aug. 29 against Traverse City West.
After the traditional postgame handshakes between the two teams, an eight-minute countdown will be placed on the stadium scoreboard, with the goal of having everyone in the stadium evacuated within that time, according to a report in the Midland Daily News.
Event staff will direct spectators to exits, the two teams will evacuate to their respective locker rooms, and the Midland High School band will immediately exit the stadium to the school building.
Midland High athletics director Eric Albright is hopeful that the drill won't significantly alter typical postgame routines for the fans.
"Maybe it's customary for families to gather on the field with players after the game — that's not going to happen," Albright said. "We understand that's going to break tradition, but for one game, it's worth it."
The unpredictability of what can happen at sporting events was a primary reason for the stadium drill. The MHS gym was evacuated during a volleyball match last fall due to a tornado warning.
In addition to advance publicity, the teams, officials and spectators at the stadium will be reminded about the impending drill before and during the game — through signs at the gate, programs and the public address system.
Albright said that the Midland Police Department might assist event staff with the drill, but that has not yet been determined.
The first game of the football season was chosen for this drill for a few reasons: the first game generally has a smaller crowd and draws fewer media members than games later in the season, the band will not be marching and will not be in full uniform, and any lessons learned from this drill can be implemented later in the season if necessary. A debriefing scheduled for the week after the game will help everyone involved evaluate the drill and determine what needs to be improved.
"We're being proactive," said Albright, who attended a session about emergency action plans at a national athletics directors conference last year. "We're there to keep our kids and spectators safe."