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Officials train on upgrading school emergency plans in Missouri

Thursday, school and public safety officials across the state attended a training on upgrading school emergency plans.

Missouri is one of 25 states to receive a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant is to help all public and private schools state-wide evaluate and update their emergency plans.

The training was one of the first steps in the grant to build a planning team that will teach emergency planning to their communities.

“The greatest risks aren’t the active shooter, or the bombing and the terrorist type stuff, while if you have one of those events it’s horrific,” Paul Fennewald with the Missouri Center for Education Safety said. “The chances of that happening in most of our schools in our state are very, very, very slim. But yet, every day they’re dealing with things like severe weather, lightning, traffic, the buses transporting kids on hazardous roads.”

Fennewald said the most important thing to take away from the training was that schools need to build relationships with law enforcement and public safety agencies before emergencies happen.

“As an emergency unfolds, you may have a plan, but the plan is never going to address all the issues that come up when you have any kind of a large-scale emergency, Fennewald said. “And having those relationships already built so that you know who to call.”

Jay Reese with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said all schools in Mid-Missouri already have emergency plans in place. But once a year, the plans need to be reviewed and staff needs to go through the training process to understand what to do ahead of time for each different scenario.

“The potential for threats is very diversified across the state and even within our own localities,” Reese said. “In our area, the first that might come to mind would be the nuclear plant in Callaway County. But that doesn’t mean that say schools in Howard County might have a different set of threats.”

Linda Barger with Christian County Emergency Management in Southeast Missouri said one plan cannot fit every school.

“I think it’s important that we never say, oh we’ve got this down,” Barger said. “I think you continually have to look at your plans and keep them updated. It’s a living breathing document. You have to make sure that that’s always, always getting improved.”

Fennewald said the next step for the school safety grant is to teach the people who attended Thursday’s training how to help educate their local communities and school districts. He said they will be having these meetings on a regular basis throughout the year.

The U.S. Department of Education will be giving out surveys to Missouri schools over the next couple of weeks to assess the current quality of their emergency operations plans, he said.

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