Emergency management and crisis preparation is a growing concern among schools in today’s environment. From natural weather disasters to building intruders, education officials are preparing staff and faculty to think on their feet in times of crisis.
This summer, Johnston Community School District employees, City of Johnston employees, and a number of Johnston Police Department personnel attended a day-long, tabletop exercise training at the Polk Co. Emergency Management facility, led by A.J. Mumm, director of the Polk Co. Emergency Management Agency. The day brought together key players in Johnston, uniting them in thought and action, should a disaster occur. For many, it brought new perspective to situations.
“It was a powerful discussion with so many key stakeholders all together, working collaboratively around the same table,” said Nate Zittergruen, associate principal at Johnston Middle School. “Now we can move forward to improve our emergency crisis plan and preparedness in case of such events.”
While a one-day training doesn’t fully prepare the city and schools for a crisis, it does facilitate critical conversation between the two entities and force each to look at the best ways to keep students, citizens, and employees as safe as possible in any given scenario.
On the day of the training, attendees worked through an active shooter scenario at the high school. Each group – educators, city officials, and law enforcements – approached the situation with their best practices and experience. The result was a discussion that raised questions for consideration and planning.
“It was a very productive day,” said Tom Mitchell, Executive Director of Human Resources for Johnston schools. “Approximately 20 people from the schools joined with personnel from the city to review how we would respond in the event of a significant crisis. The group focused on prevention, crisis management, logistics, communication, and after care. It was a great opportunity to collaborate with critical city personnel.”
Each of the eight schools in the district practice two fire drills, two tornado drills, and one intruder drill a semester. These are designed to reinforce safety measures among students, staff, and administrators. Staff will continue to work with the city on intruder and active shooter training.
“School safety is one of the most important things we focus on,” Mitchell said. “It is important that we are thoughtful and well prepared in the event of a crisis. It is our hope that the skills and processes we have in place will never have to be used.”