The Washington School District hosted a safety meeting Thursday with local first responders and representatives of other private and parochial schools in the area.
It was the first meeting of the school year for the Washington Safety Committee, which also met several times last year, according to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brendan Mahon.
The committee includes representatives of the Washington Police Department, ambulance and fire, as well the sheriff’s departments in Franklin, Warren and St. Charles counties, and other county emergency officials.
Union School District, St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, Borgia Grade School, Our Lady of Lourdes Grade School and St. Gertrude Grade School also had representatives at Thursday’s meeting.
Mahon noted the Washington School District boundaries take in parts of three counties so it’s important to have first responders from all of those areas.
“This committee was established to build stronger relationships with emergency responders and local parochial schools,” said Mahon. “Having a forum to communicate best practices with a variety of resources has been beneficial for our district.”
The committee discussed the possibility of meeting monthly, as well as conducting tabletop exercises with specific groups.
“Next Thursday, the Washington police will meet with our administrators where we will talk through a specific crisis and discuss how we would handle the situation and what might work or not work,” Mahon said.
At this week’s meeting, Franklin County Emergency Management Director Abe Cook and Union School Resource Officer Kevin Anderson shared information regarding a collaborative Google Docs database.
This shared system will include contact information, maps, school building layouts and emergency operation plans for all school buildings in both Union and the Washington area, and can be updated instantly.
Andy Robinson, safety coordinator for the Washington School District, said the information would only be accessible to emergency personnel and school officials and could be accessed from a smartphone. He credited the Union SRO for helping to get this effort under way.
“We’re in the process of getting all of our information in the database and working with the other schools to do the same thing,” Robinson said.
In the event of an emergency, this database will allow first responders to have important building information at their fingertips, Mahon said. They also can review the materials in advance to become familiar with each facility.
Robinson also discussed revisions to the school district’s emergency operations plans in response to safety inspections conducted earlier this year. The next round of safety inspections are tentatively scheduled for January.
The safety committee also reviewed the district’s 2013-14 emergency drill schedule. All schools are required to complete 10 drills for different emergency situations, including earthquake, fire, lockdown and tornado.
The lockdown drill focuses on both exterior and interior threats.
Robinson said the drills are key to making sure written plans can be executed. “We can have it on paper, but if everyone doesn’t know what to do, it doesn’t mean anything,” he said.
Following each drill, participants will be asked to complete a short after-action review.
“We are placing a greater emphasis on how we conduct our drills,” Mahon noted. “The after-action reviews should generate dialogue regarding any areas of improvement, as well as re-emphasizing the things we are doing well.”
Robinson said the Washington School District also has a safety link on its website which will soon list safety protocols, resources, frequently asked questions and other information to keep parents informed on what the district is doing.