DAVE & DUJANOVIC

Preparing and training for school emergencies

Aug 12, 2022, 5:30 PM | Updated: Sep 28, 2022, 10:19 am
FILE: Christy Belt, Timpanogos Academy 5th grade teacher, engages in an exercise designed to help t...
FILE: Christy Belt, Timpanogos Academy 5th grade teacher, engages in an exercise designed to help teachers make good decisions in critical, high stress situations such as an active shooter incident during the teacher's academy training at the Utah County Sheriff's Office shooting range, in Spanish Fork Canyon, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP)
(Rick Bowmer/AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — As students prepare to return to schools, do teachers and staff have a plan in place and the tools they need to keep everyone safe for school emergencies?

Jeff Johnson, who is the Be Ready Utah Schools coordinator with the Utah Division of Emergency Management, joins Dave & Dujanovic to talk about preparing for emergencies inside and outside schools.

Active shooter: students trained, not traumatized

Dave said when he drops off his kids at school he has no worries.

“But then my kids will say, ‘Oh, we did an active shooter training today,” he said, “and it is a jolt back to reality of the things that I never experienced. I remember, ‘Earthquake, everyone get under their desk.’ That was about the extent of my training in school.”

To prepare for an active school shooter, he added that he wants his kids trained but not traumatized.

Johnson said securing a school starts with access to a single entry point, and everyone who comes through that door must be vetted.

“If not, you lock them out and call the authorities,” he said. “We want schools to make sure that they keep the problems on the exterior of the school and make sure they don’t let them in.”

The Uvalde, Texas, school shooting May 24 where 21 people were killed happened because the gunman gained access to a unlocked door.

Utah leaders react to tragic Texas school shooting

How do you secure an elementary school when the students are at recess or inside the cafeteria for lunch? Dave asked.

Johnson said training is ongoing for the whole school staff — teachers, administrators, cooks, librarians — to move the students rapidly to a safe shelter.

“You want schools to have during recess a practice of getting everybody inside and getting them inside quickly. And they might not be able to get back to their classroom. So, they might have to go to an alternative location,” he said. ” . . . [Schools are] coming on board with this and becoming very good at sheltering our kids no matter where they are.”

Other school emergencies do happen

Ground breaks on building to replace Utah school damaged by 2020 earthquake

“What if there’s another earthquake, and my kid, my child, has to stay on campus for more than just a few hours because of safety issues? Are schools prepared for that?” Debbie asked.

Johnson said schools don’t always plan for every eventuality such as a portable restroom if students are trapped in their classrooms.

“Especially with younger students,” he said. “You have a whole bunch of first-graders that also need to go to the bathroom. What are you going to do if you can’t go out in the hallway? We’re asking teachers to get a Porta-Potty. And put it in the back of the room with some plastic bag liners and some kitty litter to help mitigate the smell.”

What if students need to spend the night at school? Do they have blankets, food supplies and water bottles?

“My wife is a teacher of 37 years and yes, I can’t get her to quit. She loves it,” Johnson said. “She has a Tupperware thing in the back. Even if they evacuate, they can grab that and take it with them. And some basic supplies, and we have a list of this on our Be Ready Utah website.”

To learn more about school emergencies, visit Be Ready Utah Schools

Related:

Canyon School District making safety a top priority for the new year

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Preparing and training for school emergencies