Area schools look to establish an emergency plan
Staff writwr

November 12, 2003

Representatives from Franklin County school districts and emergency services will put together an emergency plan for schools to follow in a crisis ó a model that schools across the country can use.

The representatives, known as the Franklin County Safe Schools Council, met Wednesday afternoon to review what was needed in the school districts and goals and objectives of an emergency plan.

The council was formed after the receipt of a $167,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

"We need to know what should be done in an emergency," said Dr. Dana Baker, Fannett-Metal School District superintendent and steering committee chairman. "It should be a plan that addresses crisis that can take place at the schools or on the way to and from school."

School districtsí plans, required by the state Department of Education, are lengthy, short or outdated.

"It is clear that the school districts need to improve and strengthen their emergency response and crisis management plans," Baker said.

Dr. Ted Rabold, assistant superintendent for pupil services, Chambersburg Area School District, said a need exists for more involvement of local and county emergency services in the planning. Plans have been developed, he said, without involvement of emergency services providers, law enforcement or the community.

"Schools, like people, like to think that the bad things wonít happen here," Rabold said.

For the most part, Baker said, schools have forgotten about such tragedies as Columbine. After Sept. 11, 2001, focus on school safety again intensified but it hasnít been sustained.

Few people outside the districts are aware of the emergency response plans.

Baker said earlier this year, a bomb threat was called into Fannett-Metal. Bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in. Every inch of the districtís two schools was covered, he said. Students were sent home.

Baker said he felt rather good about what the district had done and the cooperation with the Pennsylvania State Police. That is, until he received a call from a parent asking him if the buses were checked before sending the students home.

"I never thought of the buses," Baker said. "But we do now."

Over the next 12 months, the council will devise emergency response plans, which will address what should be done, and by whom, in emergencies, such as terrorist attack, tornado, snow storms and hurricanes; training for staff, to include first aid; procedures for emergency communications; staff and student accountability system; and equipment and supplies needed in each building.
The county has 50 school buildings, covering 754 square miles.

The council will also look at in-school programs, including drugs, alcohol and mental health and transporting hazardous materials across the county.

The grant will also provide for speakers, who are to be a large part of a "Lessons Learned" forum ó individuals with first-hand experiences, such as shootings in Columbine, Wrightsville and Montgomery County.

"We can learn from their experiences, particularly what worked and what didnít" Baker said.

The grant will also purchase weather/surveillance equipment ó one for each school district, according to Baker.

The weather station, he said, will provide information on conditions, temperatures, storms and changes. It is also equipped with a camera, which can take security photos 24 hours a day. Police can access the cameras.

Also, the council will identify what equipment should be in an emergency kit, which each teacher will have. Suggestions, thus far, have been a flashlight, rubber gloves, disposal breathing mask and a pad and pencil.

Whatís next

Michael Meier, project manager, will contact each school district for volunteers to serve on committees of the Franklin County Safe School Council.

The council will meet at 2 p.m. Dec. 10 in the Chambersburg Area School District administration building, Stanley Avenue.