Thursday, January 19, 2012
Training focuses on dealing with crisis
By SUE WATSON
A number of organizations and agencies sent representatives to a crisis management for school-based incidents course last month.
The course partners with law enforcement and mostly rural school districts to develop or improve a crisis management plan or train for crisis management at schools.
Most of those attending the course were with Marshall County School District but some were with Marshall County Sheriff’s Department, Marshall County Search and Rescue, and Cayce Fire Department.
Mike Webber, law enforcement coordinator with Findlay University in Findlay, Ohio, presented the course material based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency course manual.
Chris Ferrell, elementary principal at H.W. Byers, talked about school lockdown and how the community responds.
“As soon as we lock down, it goes viral (with parents wanting to see their kids),” he said.
The school experienced an emergency gas leak in the school cafeteria last fall as one of its recent crises.
Crisis management planning has been intensified since school shooting sprees were sparked by the April 20, 1999, school massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
Schools are mostly safe, Webber said.
Sheriff Kenny Dickerson said school safety and safety of teachers and children are a priority and training and certification is a big help if there is a crisis that goes into litigation.
“The best defense in the courtroom is to have training and show the school did the very best it could to get certified training,” he said. “We support our schools 100 percent.”
Preparation of first responders to conquer stress in a situation is paramount, Webber said. Incident command to handle emergencies has been developed since 1952 by the U.S. Government and now is in place at the local and rural levels.
Webber said in incident command, every person is trained to play a specific role. A unified command has staff built upon multiple agency response needs to a crisis. In unified command, no person has supervisory responsibility over more than six people. And everyone is cross trained to do more than one task.
Controlling parents and matching children with parents during an incident is important and must be planned in advance. There are procedures for handling various types of threats, including chemical threats.
Lockdown plans are devised and developed depending on where the threat or attack is coming from – outside the school proper or inside the school. The plan also includes counseling and mental health services to teachers and students and the community after an incident.
A study following Columbine to see if planned attacks can be spotted before they occur or prevented brought forth 10 findings:
• attacks are rarely sudden and impulsive acts. They are usually planned months to a year in advance.
• in 80 percent of the cases, the attackers told at least one other person before they did it. They told two people 50 percent of the time.
• in most cases the attacker does not communicate a threat to a target prior to attack.
• the attacker cannot be profiled.
• the attacker usually engages in behavior of concern to adults prior to the attack.
• the attacker can usually be described as a walking time bomb.
• 70 percent of attackers felt bullied or persecuted prior to the incident.
• most attackers have access to a weapon at home.
• in many cases the attacker was part of a satanic group.
• most shooting incidents are stopped by teachers or students. Law enforcement stops about 25 percent of the attacks.
Webber advised rural communities to develop a crisis management plan for the school district, to train for it, and to update it at least yearly.
“A lot has changed since 1999 (Columbine),” he said. “Your plan needs to be a living document.”
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