2008-02-20 / Community

School officials participate in mock emergency scenario

Jeff Morrison from the Georgia Emergency Management Agent demonstrates an exercise for the school system. Jeff Morrison from the Georgia Emergency Management Agent demonstrates an exercise for the school system. Miller County School officials, along with other local government representatives, took time out of their busy schedules to take part in a school based tabletop exercise. Miller County EMA Director Debbie Henry and Superintendent Robbie Phillips enlisted the help of GEMA Area School Safety Coordinator Jeff Braswell, and Exercise Planner Jeff Morrison from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to develop and facilitate an exercise for the school system. The scenario involved a student with a gun on the high school campus. The participants were presented with the situation, then given the opportunity to discuss their respective agency's response. As the scenario evolved, each agency communicated with one another about what they thought was the best way to execute their response procedures and what additional resources were needed to aid in the response.

The tabletop exercise was beneficial to all parties involved for several reasons. First, the scenario helped to identify communication gaps that existed between participating agencies. Second, school officials were able to recognize problems that existed with the response procedures in their safety plan. Third, the school system became aware of resources that were not only available from the county, but they discovered that resources were available from the state as well through the local Emergency Management Agency. Participants were also able to address issues with dissemination of information to the parents and other members of the community as well as the reunification of parents with their children in such an event. Finally, the players learned that there is no one-way to respond to any given incident; how you respond depends solely on the information available to you at the time of the occurrence.

It was evident at the conclusion of the exercise that all the players had a much better understanding of each other's responsibilities should an incident like this occur. The consensus among participants was that exercises such as this should be an ongoing thing. The school system has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for teachers and students alike. Exercises are an excellent way to identify and correct problems in safety procedures prior to an actual event. Plans are only as good as the paper that they are written on if you do not take the opportunity to test and enhance protocols in them prior to an incident. It was evident by the participation in today's exercise that school safety is a top priority for the school system, public safety officials, and other leaders in the community.

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