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NKSD improving its emergency response

POULSBO — Emergencies call for rapid execution.

In the event of a major problem, the North Kitsap School District is prepared. Still it is continuously improving its plans in order to cover as many bases as can be foreseen. Preparing for the unknown, however, is not without its challenges.

“A lot of times, you don’t know what will happen,” said North Kitsap High School emergency coordinator Jim Noeldner. “So, we try to work with the things that are most likely and then try to prioritize.”

The terror which ripped through and destroyed much of New Orleans is not expected in this neck of the woods, but it has taught the NKSD how vital two things — communication and water — are in the event of an emergency. Those are two concerns the district is looking to quell.

“We are always improving, especially the little things,” Noeldner said. “You can’t train for everything; so we train for the basics and a mentality for what to do.”

Teacher training

Every current teacher is required to take at least one training course either with the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management or with a facilitator, Noeldner said. This instruction is refreshed at the beginning of each year and new teachers are given a more in- depth briefing on the NKSD’s emergency management system.

That system relies on emergency response teams.

Staff is divided up into eight teams, each with a different focus of response. Incident management, damage assessment, evacuation, disaster first aid, search and rescue, fire and utilities, student/parent reunion, student/staff supervision and site security and food support teams are in place throughout the district with the roles of each defined in the schools’ emergency preparedness plans.

“We really have to be self-reliant until whoever is coming shows up,” Noeldner said. “Initially we’re responsible to keep each other, the school and ourselves safe.”

Each year, each school in the district is required to rehearse what to do in the event of an emergency. The state calls for three earthquake and two intruder drills per year in addition to one fire drill every month. All drills are done during school and are continually improved, Noeldner said.

“We do those simulations so the kids can walk through and know the procedures and staging areas,” said executive director of student support services Gregg Epperson. “One thing that is very critical is the ability evacuate quickly.”

Evacuation and lock-down are the two basic responses students and staff alike must know. From there, different situations call for different actions, and student and teacher groups must know how to communicate and work together in order to keep each other safe.

“We are looking into getting the ASB involved to utilize student leadership,” Noeldner said. “I can see the ASB students taking a lead role in the event of an emergency.”

The students’ role in such an event could be invaluable. Many students are certified in CPR from classes like athletic medicine and aqua-culture and even more students are equipped with what could be critical communication elements — cell phones.

Ringing in assets

Public high schools statewide received state funding to record a visual data base of their schools’ floor plan to be used for the purposes of an emergency; firefighters or policemen en route to the scene have access to the virtual floor plan via the Internet, and can get a better handle on situations. If whoever has contacted the authorities knows the location of the emergency, rescuers can pinpoint where they need to go, the best way to get there and what it will look like when they do.

The NKSD recently installed a new phone system at the high school through which any phone can access the school’s PA system. In the event that there is a dangerous intruder roaming the school, anyone who knows the intruder’s location will be able to alert the rest of the building as to where the threat is, allowing evacuation of people in other wings.

Stockpiling

Each school in the district has its own barrel of supplies that could be used in the event of a shut-in or natural disaster. From generators, flashlights, food and water, foreseen necessary supplies are in place.

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