Published on June 13th, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff0
District Five holds emergency drills, training to help prepare school officials
Richland County Sheriff’s Department officials talk with staff at Ballentine Elementary School about safety measures and best practices during a June training.
IRMO – Educators in Lexington-Richland School District Five are taking steps to ensure staff and teachers are ready for emergency situations.
The district has partnered with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies to hold training exercises this summer. Teachers at Ballentine Elementary were among the first to participate in an early June training that included an active-shooter scenario and other mock emergencies to help teachers and administrators fine-tune their skills. District Five staff, principals and other school leaders also participated in an emergency preparedness workshop during a two-day district conference on June 9-10.
“We receive many requests from school officials for training each year…they want to be ready, and we want them to be ready for emergency situations,” said Michael Poole, who oversees safety and security for the school district. “By having active-shooter scenarios and other drills, school officials will learn and develop muscle memory to help them know what to do in emergency situations…We hope there is never an emergency in our schools, but we have to prepare for anything that may occur.”
The training at Ballentine Elementary began with presentations by district staff and law enforcement on safety protocols, recent events and best practices. Several scenarios were acted out, and a briefing was conducted after the exercises. Officials said the scenarios were meant to simulate the chaos and panic of a real-life event and mentally prepare teachers and staff.
“You could be the difference between life and death,” Richland County Sheriff’s Department Master Sgt. Shawn McDaniels told the group. “Schools partnering with law enforcement…law enforcement partnering with the community, that’s how we make sure that we are doing the best we can to keep our schools safe.”
More than 90 people attended the one-day training. Other agencies participating in the training included: the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the Irmo and Columbia fire departments and Richland County Emergency Management. Ballentine Elementary School Principal Robin Bright said her staff left the event more confident and prepared for emergencies.
“It really started with the addition of our SRO. She provided a different perspective, and for the past two years with her help we’ve looked at our safety procedures and protocols to change and improve things,” Bright said. “We felt like the training was the next step…it was meant to empower our staff so that if something does go wrong, they would have already thought through it and have the confidence in themselves to do the best they can.”
Second grade teachers Nicole Dennis and Theresa Allen were among the staff who volunteered to attend the summer training. They said the emergency exercises and opportunity to ask questions helped them feel more confident to act quickly, prepare their students and respond appropriately.
“I learned that while we don’t want to scare our children, we really do need to prepare them,” Allen said. “That was one thing that I thought about…that I really need to do a better job of training my students on what they need to do in an emergency situation.”
Dennis added, “I think you have to emotionally prepare yourself as well. So, having a realistic exercise helps you prepare yourself so that your focus will be on protecting those little ones in your care.”
The June emergency trainings were just a few of the steps District Five has taken to further bolster its safety measures. Each year, a complete security review is conducted district-wide to identify and address needed improvements. Several emergency trainings are held district-wide each year, and District Five also has School Resource Officers from Lexington and Richland Counties in all of its schools.
“Emergency preparedness is a continuous effort,” Poole said. “We are not just relying on one thing to keep our schools safe. We are constantly working with law enforcement and making improvements to make sure we are as prepared as possible.”