The recent tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., left everyone across the country shocked and broken hearted. As people reflect on the shooting, they often think about how the schools in their community would respond if they were to encounter an incident such as this.
With school safety in mind, in 2007 Pierce County Department of Emergency Management, school districts and area first responders began collaborating with one another to develop various trainings for school staff members. The Pierce County All Hazards Emergency Preparedness Training Program for Schools covers natural and human caused disasters as well as violence in schools, and it continues to expand. This program offers a proactive approach to school emergency training and assists schools in providing a safe and secure place for children to learn and grow without fear.
“This program prepares schools to be ready to respond to different types of emergencies and disasters with and without the help of first responders,” said Emergency Management Director Steve Bailey, “Past incidents have proven that this program is highly effective.”
Pierce County has unfortunately experienced school shootings in the past with the two most recent being the Foss High School shooting in 2007 and the Birney Elementary shooting in 2010. Unfortunately not all tragedies can be prevented.
“Although we may not be able to eliminate chaos, we can effectively manage chaos and save lives with this program,” said Tacoma Police Lieutenant Mark Feddersen, a former School Resource Officer Program Commander for the Tacoma School District. Feddersen continues on to say how the program enhances the partnerships between first responders and school districts and helps standardize schools’ responses to emergencies.
The All Hazards Emergency Preparedness Training for Schools program is taught to schools through a variety of training modules facilitated by local first responders. Examples of training modules include: Bullying, Evacuation, Lockdown, Shelter-in-Place, Threat Assessment, Triage and Treatment, Active Shooter Table Top Exercise, Survival Mindset and more.
“This training program allows school districts to work with law enforcement and fire personnel to identify gaps in schools’ emergency plans and procedures,” said Barb Pope, Puyallup School District Director of Student Services. Participating first responder agencies include Pierce County Department of Emergency Management, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, Tacoma Police Department, Pierce County Fire District 13, Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, and many more from this region.
Bailey said a majority of Pierce County School Districts have already involved themselves in this program and have strong emergency plans and procedures in place. Parents, teachers and students can contact their school’s administrative staff with any questions or concerns about the school’s emergency plans. Another resource for parents is available on the U.S. Department of Education Website which has information on helping children cope with traumatic events.
Through this training and exercise program, schools develop relationships with first responders in their area; have the opportunity to test and evaluate their school’s emergency plans, policies, and procedures; gain knowledge on the roles and responsibilities of staff before, during, and after an incident; and lastly, have begun to identify gaps within their school’s emergency plans. The continued efforts of the school districts have made Pierce County schools a safer place.
For more detailed information on the All Hazards Emergency Preparedness Training for Schools, please visit Pierce County Emergency Management’s School Training webpage and view the program brochure.
MEDIA CONTACTS:Kristin Tinsley, Emergency Management public information officer
253-798-3686 (desk)253-377-5204 (cell)[email protected]