SPRINGFIELD TWP. Alarms went off, 9-1-1 was called and students evacuated the Springfield Junior/Senior High School in what was the last of the test runs of emergency drills which were conducted in each district school building.
This took place on Nov. 13 and the district previously conducted drills at Spring Hill, Young and Schrop schools.
Springfield Local Schools Business Manager Dustin Boswell said each elementary school completed similar drills while Schrop and the junior/senior high school had different scenarios.
Springfield Fire Department Capt. Steve Simich said the training scenario went very well. It was a simulated chemical explosion in the chemistry lab. The school personnel did not know what or where the scenario would occur.
“We truly put the Springfield High School/Junior High School administration and teachers through their paces in terms of activating their emergency response plan and they responded very well,” he said.
The drill was based on a realistic event that could occur. Parents of students were advised that there would be a drill and to not be alarmed. In this scenario, 13 students from the drama club were willing to act as victims and.
“It sounds like they really enjoyed the experience,” said Simich.
The actors asked Principal Shaun Morgan when they could do it again. The 13 victims were evaluated during the scenario and transported to a simulated hospital. This required the Fire Department to not only anticipate a fire, but also the triage of victims, and transport of those victims to area hospitals.
“This, too, went very well,” said Simich.
To begin, when the explosion occurred the school had gathered all available adults to assemble in the rotunda for instruction. All of those that had medical training were immediately sent to the chemistry lab to aid injured students.
The approximately 1,100 students in the junior/senior high school were evacuated while emergency teams arrived on site to aid the injured. Morgan said they are usually able to evacuate the school in less than three minutes during a fire drill. However, for this drill, it was too cold to leave students outside, so they loaded all students on buses and took them to a location, which took longer.
“This is the third year we have been working on a new drill schedule required by the Ohio Department of Education,” said Boswell.
He said the first year the district conducted table-top exercises, the second focused on functional drills, and this year they completed full scale exercises. The drills are in addition to the fire and tornado drills that are in place. Nine fire drills are required during the school year and one tornado drill per month school is in season during tornado season, which is April 1 through July 30.
“Student safety is a priority at Springfield Local Schools. Conducting these drills ensures that our plans are well known by the staff and students,” Boswell said, adding the drills ensure that the plans work efficiently if there is an emergency. “These drills are the culmination of the many trainings that staff undergo each year to review and familiarize themselves with our emergency procedures,” he said.
The teams at the schools along with local fire and police departments train for these events. Training include a tabletop exercise to walk through an emergency situation and discuss what responses are appropriate and how they would be implemented by staff.
“Each drill gives us an opportunity to not only practice procedures, but to also review our response and make improvements or modifications as necessary,” Boswell said.
Boswell and Morgan said the drill at the junior/senior high school went well and offered an opportunity for the district to make improvements. After each drill, the team debriefs with the school staff and administration to get their feedback, as well as with local safety forces.
“These meetings guide the changes that we consider and can also reinforce current practices or changes that have previously been put into place. All changes are carefully considered before being put into place and any changes to the plan are communicated to all relevant persons,” Boswell said.
The drill was beneficial to not only Springfield Local Schools, but local safety forces as multiple departments participated in the training. It presented an opportunity to practice responding to a mass-casualty event in the schools.
“Conducting these drills have given us all valuable training in how we communicate and respond during emergency situations,” Boswell said.
The Emergency Operations Plans are developed with the assistance of district staff, local safety forces, parents and the Summit County Emergency Management Agency. The team holds a district safety meeting each year. During the meeting, previous activations are reviewed and discussed and the plans are finalized, and changes are discussed as well as changes for future drills.
Springfield Local Schools work with a separate committee to prepare these drill scenarios as well. This committee includes Springfield and Lakemore police and fire officials, the Emergency Management Agency and several Springfield staff. The purpose of the committee is to cohesively work together to execute the scenarios.
“Collaborative preparation and planning will ensure smooth operation if we are ever in an emergency situation,” Boswell said.
In the case of this evacuation, students were bused off site. If off site locations need to be utilized, reunification information through broadcast calls and media releases would go out to the parents and local media outlets informing them where to report for unification.
Lakemore Fire Chief Brett Reinbolt and Capt. Brian Cyphert were involved in the planning with Simich over the last couple of months.
Departments involved the day of the drill were Lakemore, Springfield, Coventry, Suffield, Mogadore, Green and Uniontown fire departments and the Lakemore Police Department.
Also, in attendance were Summit County EMA (emergency management agency), and Springfield Local Schools management teams to act as observers and to offer insights for improvement.
“I personally would like to thank the area fire departments, and the school administration, Dustin Boswell and Mary Meadows, for their commitment to keeping our schools safe,” said Simich.