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Planning For The Unexpected

Planning For The Unexpected

Planning For The Unexpected

Emergencies by their very nature are unexpected.

That’s why having a detailed plan in place before disaster strikes is the key to ensuring a successful resolution to the situation. And in the Sheboygan Falls School District, officials have been working for years to create a solid school safety plan that is constantly updated and reviewed with teachers and administrators.

Now they have taken their efforts to the next level. Last summer, the district sent a five-member team to Emmitsburg, Maryland to participate in a four-day workshop on school safety led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The course was held at the National Emergency Training Center at the Emergency Management Institute.

The workshop covered the phases of incident management including how to use the National Incident Management System (NIMS) to build partnerships with outside agencies such as law enforcement, fire departments and emergency management officials. The team also got tips on training staff in emergency procedures and had the chance to evaluate their emergency plan using guidelines from the Homeland Security Department.

“The instructors walked us through several scenarios while providing us with time to collaborate with not only our team, but with other school districts from around the country,” said Amanda Pound, associate principal of Sheboygan Falls Elementary and Middle Schools, and one of the team members. “Because of this opportunity, we were able to bring back valuable information to our school safety team that specifically focuses on what we can do to continue to strengthen our current plan.”

Mary Lofy Blahnik, the district’s director of instruction, said that the workshop helped improve what was already a noteworthy safety plan. Other area school districts have recently used the Sheboygan Falls plan as a model for their own.

“We felt as though we had a comprehensive safety plan for the district,” she added, noting that the experts at the FEMA training helped the district “fine tune some of our protocols.”

The Sheboygan Falls team went through the training with representatives from school districts in Idaho, Louisiana, California and Oregon.

Sheboygan Falls Elementary School principal Lynn Bub said that the district teams learned from each other.

“We were able to share the strengths of our plan and glean ideas from others to reflect and build on our preparedness,” Bub explained.

Jake Beschta, associate principal and athletic director of Sheboygan Falls High School, agreed that the collaboration with FEMA experts as well as the other district teams was invaluable.

“We were able to explore a wealth of information, strategies, and emergency-based scenarios that will better enable us to create an ever-evolving district safety plan that will help us be proactive in ensuring the safety of our students, staff, and visitors,” Beschta said. “Our safety team will take what we learned to continue important work on our district safety plan as well as develop an extracurricular/athletic facilities safety plan.”

Lieutenant Douglas Hall, a supervisor for the Sheboygan Falls Police Department, and a member of the district’s safety team, also attended the training.

Hall said that the key thing he took away from the workshop was the “importance of having community stakeholders involved in your planning and training.”

“The relationships generated with people involved in school safety throughout the country is very important to me,” he added. “Since returning, I have received many tips from others who were in attendance with us at this training.”

School districts from across the country are invited to apply for the FEMA workshop. FEMA pays for the team’s transportation and housing while the district covers meals.

It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

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