Manhattan-Ogden Schools Get an A+ for Safety Week

Each day of the week, campuses conduct a different drill or combination of exercises.

The Manhattan-Ogden Unified School District (USD) 383 in Kansas has made significant strides in improving emergency preparedness over the course of two Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grants. The district has had external school safety, security, climate, culture and emergency preparedness assessments conducted at all of its schools, has had an advanced training session to train an internal team to conduct future assessments, has completed NIMS training for many district employees, has revamped its crisis plans and has developed a far more robust drill and exercise program. 

One unique approach developed in USD 383 is Safe Schools Week. Each school designates a Safe School Week and conducts a different drill or combination of drills every day that week. Drills are coordinated with area public safety agencies to provide the expert outside viewpoint as well as the participation of local public safety personnel in the drills. As an example of the level of detail for this program, the following excerpt from the district’s instructional sheet explains how a fire drill is conducted with participation from the Manhattan Fire Department:

Monday – Enhanced Fire Drill in partnership with Manhattan Fire Department

 Fire Department will be using one or two engines at each school during the fire drill. The engine whose district the school is located in will need to be at the school by 9:45 a.m. to meet with the school principal. This engine will be assigned to set up our smoke machine in a safe location at an exit within the school. This will primarily be the main exit and should be coordinated with the Principal. The smoke generated will simulate a blocked exit to force evacuation of students through alternate exits. The primary engine will remain in the school to observe the evacuation and track the time of the alarm. At approximately 4 minutes after the drill has begun, the primary engine needs to notify the secondary engine, which will be staged a block away and should approach the school as if they would on a report of a fire. The officer on the secondary engine will need to meet with the custodian at the front door who will give them an initial report, including if anyone is known to still be in the building, what the emergency is and where it is located in the building. During fire safety planning, members of the public are taught by us to give the report of “who, what and where” to arriving fire units. The crew of the secondary engine will then proceed into the building and the drill will be complete.

At the conclusion of the drill, the school will need to be ventilated, and assistance should be given to make sure the fire alarm is reset. At this time, a review of the drill can be conducted with the Principal and any suggested changes should be forwarded to Fire Prevention.

A different type of drill is conducted each day with the Riley County Police Department participating in a lockdown drill and a briefing for students on what is expected of them during a lockdown. By having officers discuss this in person with students, trust as well as confidence can be enhanced. On yet another day, the Riley County Emergency Management Agency observes the sheltering practices and locations during a severe weather sheltering drill.

The Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 Safety week makes a great deal of sense in a number of ways. The district is taking one week from each school year to emphasize the importance of emergency preparedness while affording staff and students a chance to practice for a wide range of emergency situations while learning to contrast the various functional protocols by holding the various drills in the same week. While this is but one example of the many excellent practices in this community, the level of collaboration between school and public safety officials is extraordinary.

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Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

About the Author

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Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at [email protected] Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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