PREPARATION IS KEY – Weakley County Emergency Management Director Jamison Peevyhouse talks with members of the Weakley County School System about preparation for a large-scale disaster event.
As most students were clearing their lockers, turning in text books or preparing for finals, members of Incident Response Teams from each school throughout Weakley County participated in a two day training event designed to simulate a real-life large scale disaster.
To accomplish this, the school system relied upon local expertise for training resources.
“Thanks to the Weakley County Emergency Management Agency, our teams were able to think through, plan and envision just how their school communities might be impacted by a unique weather event or natural disaster,” said Lorna Benson, Resource Specialist for Weakley County Schools, and coordinator for the event; “We are so lucky that EMA Director Jamison Peevyhouse and Deputy Director Jason Hypes work tirelessly for this county in assisting other agencies with training and preparation for the future.
“They put at least 75 man hours into developing scenarios which challenged our school teams to take the plans we have in place and put those plans ‘into action’so to speak, without impacting the classroom, while also getting a closer look at what needs we might have in terms of communication, sheltering in place, accountability, transportation, medical needs, food, hydration and reuniting family members.”
Benson continued, “We conduct drills routinely, but this type of exercise provided us the chance to consider a few longer term consequences, and will allow us to let our parents and communities know that, while we can’t prepare for every possible event under the sun, we do have response plans and we do take safety training seriously.”
Also on hand to lend their expertise to the training event were Martin Fire Chief Russell Schwahn, Lt. Jamie Summers of the Martin Fire Department, Deputy Fire Marshal John Garrido and Mark Holloman of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA).
Each of the experts urged teachers and community members to take their training beyond the classroom to their own homes.
According to these emergency responders, if the folks at home would take the time to access the Web sites www.ready.gov, www.fema.gov, or www.cdc.gov, instructions are available to create “go kits” which could become vitally important in an emergency.
At this Peevyhouse noted, “Weakley County has been extremely fortunate in past years concerning large natural events. However, we have used the lessons learned from other counties and municipalities to be better prepared. ‘Now’ is always the time to discuss preparedness, sharpen our focus on response objectives and identify challenges we will face. Effective disaster response begins with ongoing personal preparedness.”
In the meantime, parents and students can be assured that school safety training will resume when the school bells ring again in August.