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Education

Schools and Emergency Preparedness

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/schoolsand_1410.mp3

The nation's schools aren't making the grade when it comes to preparing for emergencies. Michele Skalicky has more.

A recent analysis by the Government Accountability Office shows that most schools could do more when it comes to planning for emergencies such as terrorist attacks. The office says two-thirds of school districts nationwide cite a lack of equipment and expertise as impediments to emergency planning.

Tom Lindsey, deputy director for the Springfield Public Schools Public Safety Department, is confident the district would be prepared for a major emergency such as a terrorist attack.

Each district building's crisis plan is reviewed annually by Lindsey's office to make sure it's up-to-date. And Lindsey says each school is required to have an established number of drills for potential emergency situations including in-place sheltering during an event such as a tornado and evacuations during a chemical spill, gas leak or fire. They also practice what to do if an intruder enters a school.

Another thing the Government Accountability Office points out is that school districts generally haven't been working with first responders on how to implement emergency plans. Lindsey says Springfield Public School officers are commissioned officers and, therefore, are first responders. But he says they also work with other first responders in the community.

If a flu pandemic were to occur, Lindsey says they have plans in place for that as well. And they practice them. The district recently participated in a pandemic drill with the Springfield/Greene County Office of Emergency Management and the Springfield/Greene County Health Department.

An Education Department Official says, while districts are required to have emergency plans, the department doesn't evaluate the quality of those plans.

The Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, Mississippi's Bennie Thompson, says that will change, and emergency plans will be reviewed.