Schools plan for emergency scenarios
The story goes if one doesn't train for possible crisis, one will not know what to do in a crisis.
In the case of Carbon School District, they are taking this saying seriously.
About a year and a half ago the district charged Ken Labrum, who is the Security Director for the district, to look at what needed to be done to protect students and staff in the time of crisis.
"We have been really good at our fire drills, earthquake drills and various other kinds of emergency procedures, but what we hadn't really done was what is called reunification," said Labrum on Tuesday morning. "Reunification is moving everyone from a school to another site so they can be reunified together."
In some ways what Labrum is talking about is a lot like having a meeting plan for a family should the house they are living in catches fire. A good plan details ways to get out of the house, and then designates the spot where the family meets to be sure everyone got out safely. With a school the plan is basically the same, but it has to work on a much bigger scale.
Since Labrum was assigned this task, the program has been set up in phases so that one day the entire district could respond appropriately even if every building had to be evacuated. He along with other district employees did a lot of study and examination of plans from other places to make Carbon's work well.
The first part of the plan was to get communications working correctly. While there were some radios around the schools, not everything worked together and certainly they didn't work between campus'.
"We bought 12 FCC licenses and frequencies to work with radios that are similar to what the Carbon County Sheriff's Department has," said Labrum. "Each school has its own frequency and we have a district wide repeater. In testing, the radios have worked out well."
The next step was to run a table top exercise on evacuation and emergency situations. Labrum worked with Carbon County Emergency Services Director Jason Llewelyn and the districts Transportation Director Kerry Jensen on designing the program and when they held the exercise they had all kinds of district personnel involved, including administrators.
"We learned a lot from the exercise and found a lot of things we needed to work on to make the reunification program work," stated Labrum. "There was some criticism from some about this exercise, but we think it was valuable."
The third phase of the program was to come up with a reunification drill and to test it in schools.
"Some of the administrators have worried and been uncomfortable about how this would work," stated Labrum. "However we solved the problems of communication, coordination and parent alerts."
Last week the first drills were run. Creekview and Castle Heights Elementary. The schools literally moved their entire student bodys to other buildings to see what could be done to improve the plan. Castle Heights and Creekview students went to nearby churches and regrouped.
"We wanted to get a feel for how it worked," said Labrum. "I think it went well."
In the case of these schools, and Wellington Elementary which held the drill on Tuesday afternoon, the reunification was not actually completed because it was just a move without buses coming to pick kids up to send them home in or having parents there to pick up their students.
But that actual reunification will come in the next month for the all the schools. The dates and times of the coming drills and actual reunifications will be forwarded to parents at a later date. And some of the plans have some differences from one another because of locations.
"Sally Mauro and Helper Junior High are unique in that they will go to each others buildings in an emergency," said Labrum concerning a May drill at those two schools. "In the case of both buildings needing to be evacuated, the kids will end up at the Helper Civic Auditorium."
The planning for the operations has been complicated and in many ways enormous considering the number of people that need to be moved.
"When we do the actual reunification we will be doing them at the end of the school day so the buses will be running on regular schedules," said Labrum. "Parents will be able to pick up their kids at the reunification site."
He points out in the actual reunification parents will have to park at least a block away from the reunification point and show ID's to pick up kids if the parents or guardians are not known to the school staff.
The final part of the plan will happen next fall sometime when the entire plan will be tested all at once.
"We will do the reunification at the same time all across the district," explained Labrum.
That will be a test that will tell if communications, transportation and logistics work correctly.
All the plans are being worked out with the various police and fire agencies in the county as well. They will be involved in handling security and emergency aide where needed through this spring and into fall. If an emergency occurs they will be called on to do the same thing.
"I think that fall reunification will really stretch our resources and see what we can do with what we have in place," concluded Labrum.