Crisis Workshop brings together parents, administrators and emergency responders
By: Carol Enright
You receive a text message from your child during school hours saying that the school’s in lockdown or there has been an intruder alert. While your first instinct may be to head to the school, emergency responders urge you to stay put.
“Going to school during a crisis – that is the least desirable thing that we would like parents to do,” said Michael Thiemann, coordinator of emergency management for Metro West Fire Protection District.
Thiemann attended Rockwood’s Crisis Workshop on Sept. 5, along with a group of more than 100 parents, Rockwood administrators and emergency responders. The key message for parents was to stay away during a crisis. Instead of running up to school, Thiemann said parents should pay attention to the district’s notification systems – which include email, text messages and local media – and wait to receive the most accurate information.
John Borgmann, assistant chief of the Monarch Fire Protection District, also attended the workshop.
“If every parent of every student showed up in a car at a school to pick up their kid if there’s an incident, the roadway’s going to be so jammed with cars that you’ll never get any emergency equipment in or out to handle the situation,” said Borgmann.
Borgmann said that “kids are in the best hands when you let the administration handle the situation and work through it along with emergency services, as opposed to a parent coming in and yanking their kid.”
“Now, the school doesn’t know where that child is. That accountability gets to be huge when you’re trying to control the situation,” he added.
The workshop also addressed the various roles of school staff and emergency personnel in crisis situations. But, perhaps, the workshop’s main benefit was creating an opportunity for administrators to put a face to a name.
“With the principals’ hectic schedules and our hectic schedules, sometimes it’s difficult to get together and talk face-to-face about how we would interact if we had an incident – and this was the perfect opportunity to do that,” said Borgmann.
“In the middle of a crisis is not a good time to be shaking hands and introducing yourself,” said Kim Cranston, Rockwood’s chief communications officer. “We stress the importance of relationships and partnerships.”
Rockwood has been hosting the crisis workshop every other year for the past 10 years. Cranston said she saw a need for the workshop more than a decade ago when she “realized that a number of our building principals had never met the police chief or fire chief in their area.”
“In a district like Rockwood, that stretches out for 150 square miles and has so many municipalities within it, it really is challenging for people to know all those emergency responders,” Cranston said.
Thiemann said the workshop shows the district’s commitment to safety.
“They are just second to none, in my mind, in the way of safety planning. They have it down,” he said.
Cranston defined a crisis as “anything that disrupts the school day.”
Whether it’s a student breaking a leg in gym class, a power outage triggered by a severe storm or an intruder on campus, the emergency response plan kicks in.
“Every incident is treated as a true emergency, until it’s deemed that it is not,” said Thiemann.
If parents need any more assurances that their children are in good hands during a crisis, Thiemann said they should know that most emergency responders serving the district are also Rockwood parents.
“We have the same concerns and care for those students, because they’re our children as well,” he said.