By Susan Redden
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
The discussions were general on Thursday, but public safety officials agreed to develop more specific plans starting this spring to ensure coordinated responses to potential emergencies in Carthage schools.
The forum was organized by officials at Carthage schools to discuss responses to school emergencies. Officials of the Carthage police and fire departments, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and other agencies attended the session.
Mark Baker, assistant superintendent for business, reviewed safety and security procedures in place at schools in the district.
He said the district works closely with the Carthage police and fire departments, and school officials wanted to meet with all agencies that potentially could be involved in an emergency “to learn from each other and discuss what we can do better.”
Carthage police Chief Greg Dagnan said he contacted Baker and suggested a gathering of public safety officials after the mass shooting in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Police have conducted training in the schools, including an “active shooter drill” held last year, Dagnan noted.
“We all know what we’d do, but we want to know what everyone is doing to make sure we all work together,” he said.
Baker said the district will supply to all involved agencies copies of plans for all the district’s buildings. The plans include information about where children are to be in case of an emergency, the location of power supplies and shut-off valves, and any chemicals kept in the buildings.
“Each building has a crisis plan that shows staging areas and emergency contacts,” he said. “What we’d like to do is get together with you at each building to show you the layouts and walk through so we can discuss different scenarios.”
The first of the planning sessions likely will be scheduled during spring break.
Baker said the district also has reviewed and revised locations where students are to go during tornado drills, based on recommendations from the Fire Department. He said the department also has access to keys for opening school buildings in an emergency.
“We’ve all learned a lot from the Joplin tornado,” he said.
Jason Cravens, director of instructional services with the Joplin School District, was a guest at the session. He said many lessons were learned after the May 2011 tornado, including those learned from reviewing videos from security cameras in school buildings.
“We learned that hallways were essentially wind tunnels for debris, and we need to move children to interior rooms,” he said.
Baker said the Carthage district is looking at federal grants to add safe rooms at some schools.
Keith Stammer, Joplin-Jasper County emergency services coordinator, emphasized the importance of redundant systems for notifying school officials in case of emergencies, such as a tornado, regardless of where they are and whether there is power to the building.
WORK BY CARTHAGE OFFICIALS to shift to a new radio system has improved communications between the city and the schools, including bus drivers, according to Mark Baker, assistant school superintendent for business.