The Black Box Conundrum: What is it?

A black box in a THS classroom.

Elena Goiria

A black box in a THS classroom.

Elena Goiria, Guest Writer

We have all seen it. In every classroom sits a mysterious black box in a dark, lonely corner. We have all wondered what’s inside it and why teachers grab it during drills. Well, no need to worry anymore: Welcome to Black Box 101. 

According to Vice Principal Suchanski, the Black Box is an emergency measure that contains a basic first aid kit and other extra protection. Stipulated and provided by the Central Office, all High School classrooms are required to be in possession of a Black Box. The district has used the Black Box for about ten years and having them is mandatory in all seven schools. Other New Jersey schools might also have an emergency box, but each of its contents may vary. “We have the box and it’s labeled with all these things,” Suchanski said. “But some other schools might do the bare minimum.”

The Black Box in each Tenafly classroom includes a box of tissues, a pair of plastic gloves, a flashlight, a first aid kit, class rosters, lockdown and emergency procedures, a pen and a notepad for a teacher who might need to take notes during an emergency, and floor plans for evacuations. These floor plans of the high school show stairwells and the elevator in the event that a disabled student would need to be evacuated. According to Suchanski, disabled students are moved to a certain part of the second floor so that the fire department can locate them if the elevator isn’t working. There is also supposed to be an orange vest.  “We’re still working [on adding] an orange vest, which is more for visual safety,” Suchanski said. Although the teachers are in charge of the Black Box when it’s in the room, the Central Office is in charge of the materials, which are distributed during the summer.

Black Box in a THS classroom (Elena Goiria)

This security measure is not mandatory nationwide and different schools might use different methods, but it is a measure implemented in many schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 95% of public schools reported that they monitor entrances and exits of the building during school hours. 83% of schools use security cameras, 70% require their staff to use some kind of ID, and 9% require their students to use ID. Emergency kits for classrooms are very popular, and there are even stores such as dedicated to selling emergency materials. 

These measures might seem unrealistic considering the safety measures that THS implements.  However, these boxes could be helpful in potential scenarios as they contain information necessary to conduct smooth fire drills and evacuations. Moreover, materials such as masks and gloves have recently been added due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The boxes also contain lists of students’ informations for teachers and administrators in case of an emergency. Teachers could also use the first aid kit provided if fast treatment is required, but the teacher should contact the nurse or an administrator first.

Over the years, the Black Box has improved. “I remember when I was a teacher. This is going back almost 20 years ago, and we would have something a little bit smaller where it would be a first aid kit and just a clipboard with three or four important pieces of paper, but it has evolved,” Suchanski said. Year after year, our safety measures keep improving in their task to protect us.

Mystery box: Puzzle solved.