R-IV District to enhance safety plans

Thursday, July 24, 2008

On June 5, Cassville Middle School Principal Eric White participated in a district-wide safety evaluation with Dr. Russell Thompson, Missouri Center for Safe Schools associate director. Although the evaluation showed that the R-IV School District maintains an excellent safety plan, changes will be made over the next year to enhance the district's safety plans even further.

"We went through everything, every campus, facility and building, including the cafeterias, maintenance barn and custodial closets," said White, who serves as the Cassville R-IV School District's safety coordinator.

"We did very well considering the fact that we were working with someone we never have worked with before," said White. "This is a new format that will likely be implemented at all schools in Missouri."

When Dr. Thompson evaluated the district's safety plans, he found that emergency response plans fell in line with those recommended by the Missouri Center for Safe Schools.

"As far as the every day happenings, we were evaluated very well by Dr. Thompson," said White. "We have organized our emergency plans well, and we have adequately prepared and practiced for various situations."

Dr. Thompson said that the district has established excellent plans for student safety during fire, tornado and intruder emergencies.

"We practice our emergency plans seasonally," said White. "For instance, we have fire drills at the very beginning of the school year, intruder drills around the second quarter of the school year and tornado drills around the time that the state drills are held.

"We also have steps in place to provide bus safety," said White. "We try to introduce all of the students, especially the ones in the lower grades, to bus safety by practicing evacuations."

White said that Joe Cavness, district transportation director, spends an extended amount of time providing teachers and students with bus safety training on evacuation procedures.

Dr. Thompson also point-ed out that the R-IV School District is well mapped and all safety procedures are well documented.

"All of our facilities and exits are well labeled," said White. "Evacuation routes have been identified in proximity to each teacher's classroom."

The district maintains primary and secondary emergency routes for all emergency situations. Routes are evaluated to ensure students do not become bottle necked at exits when evacuating the buildings.

"Dr. Thompson said that we are doing a good job on the things that we are doing," said White. "Now we want to expand what we have into the plan that he has developed, which will hopefully be adopted across the state and nation."

White has completed two days of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training in preparation for implementing the enhanced school safety plans. He has also completed hazardous material safety training.

"We will be changing the complexion of our plan to more closely resemble what is recommended by the Missouri Center of Safe Schools," said White. "We will have new operation guidelines for each classroom that we will be handing out to each of the teachers next school year."

Agencies that come into the school during an emergency will find it easier to use the uniform plan to establish a line of command and gather information about the situation, said White, who developed the extensive safety guideline booklet this year. Costs to reproduce the booklet will be covered by a grant that the district received through the Southwest Center of Education.

"These guidelines will be easier for all teachers and administrators to follow," said White. "We will also be establishing an incident command system, which will include five teams that will collect information and take action in the event of a crisis."

The five incident command system teams will include: family reunification; first aid; counseling services and mental health; security; and search, rescue and hazardous material.

"We will be creating teams at each building when we go back to school in the fall," said White. "I will be meeting with the principals at each building to discuss possible team members."

In order to further ensure student safety, the new safety plan requires each teacher to be paired with a "buddy." Buddy teachers will be responsible for supervising their partner's students while incident command duties are being handled.

"This plan will be more uniform, not only throughout our school, but to other schools, the county and other agencies," said White, who also serves on the county Disaster Preparedness Committee.

"I think this will be a really good change," said White. "We were doing a good job before, and we will continue to do a good job as time progresses. This will only change our format and the number of personnel involved in the safety plan."

All incident command system team members will be required to complete emergency training in the fall.

"We will be doing table top exercises to evaluate how we would handle different situations," said White. "We want to make sure we are even better prepared for any situation that might arise."

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