2012-08-02 / Front Page

Police, fire, EMS prepare with walk-through of schools

By KIP BURKE
news editor


Florence Sandifer, principal of Washington-Wilkes Primary School, familiarizes Washington-Wilkes public safety officials with the school’s layout during Monday’s walk-through of all four Wilkes County schools. Florence Sandifer, principal of Washington-Wilkes Primary School, familiarizes Washington-Wilkes public safety officials with the school’s layout during Monday’s walk-through of all four Wilkes County schools. Police, fire, and emergency medical personnel from across Washington Wilkes went back to school Monday to prepare for events they all hope will never happen, touring each school to become more familiar with how they would respond in an emergency.

“It’s vitally important that everyone responding to an emergency be familiar with our schools inside and out,” Blake Thompson, director of the Wilkes County Emergency Management Agency, said. “This could save valuable seconds when they’re needed to save lives. Of course we hope this will never be needed, but we’ve got to be prepared for anything.”

The public safety walk-through grew out of ongoing efforts between the school system and the former Wilkes EMA Director, the late Chief Alan Poss, Thompson said, to prepare for emergencies that might involve the schools. “We really wanted to do this walk-through because the more training we do, the better off we’ll be in an emergency.”

Public safety leaders including Wilkes County Sheriff Mark Moore, Washington Police Chief Theodosia Glenn, Fire Chief Darrell Rogers, and Thompson led a group of nearly 40 law enforcement, fire, and EMS personnel through all four Wilkes County schools Monday afternoon to make sure they were thoroughly familiar with each school, how to access each area, and each school’s procedures in the event of an emergency.

“Quite a few of our newer officers had never been inside one or two of the schools,” Sheriff Moore said, “so this was very helpful in seeing exactly how we would respond in a number of different situations. It’s a big help to be familiar with the layout of all the schools.”

During the walk-through, each school’s principal escorted the group through a complete tour of the school, talking about how the school personnel are trained to respond in each kind of emergency, and how the first responders can access the school quickly, especially during a lockdown situation.

“This critical review helps us assess safety and security from all angles and with all departments,” said Dr. Rosemary Caddell, superintendent of Wilkes County schools. “It helps to foster understanding and communication between and among all entities that may be involved in an emergency.”

The public safety walk-through is just a part of the ongoing countywide emergency preparedness plan, which included February’s tornado drills that came two days before a real storm front brought real tornado warnings to Washington-Wilkes.

As it did in February, the emphasis on getting ready in advance of any emergency is expected to pay off with increased safety for Wilkes citizens. “This is a proactive approach that helps us avoid potential hazards and prepare to perform effectively and efficiently should an emergency occur,” Dr. Caddell said. “We really appreciate Blake Thompson’s coordination of this effort and the active personnel from our emergency personnel.”

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