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Preparing for a disaster

Burbank High School conducts an exercise that has kids respond to a hypothetical, major emergency.

April 05, 2008|By Chris Wiebe

MEDIA DISTRICT NORTH — At Burbank High School on Thursday morning, a shrill alarm suddenly sounded throughout the campus and an entire student body ducked beneath their desks to take cover.

The exercise was part of a districtwide emergency- preparedness drill test that put the schools to the test, conducting a simulated response to a hypothetical, large-scale emergency.

The operation at Burbank High began with an emergency alarm, and then the students were told to evacuate their classrooms and head for the football field, the designated emergency location site. Gradually, a displaced, moving mass separated into organized clusters divided by classrooms.

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“They all know where to go,” science teacher Arin Mousessian said. “Every single one of them knows.”

Once the students were safety corralled, some predesignated teachers and administrators reported to a search-and-rescue command center, where they pulled on florescent yellow vests and hard hats and set out to assess the campus for damage. Teams of five or six people searched for structural problems, as well as students or faculty members who may not have made it out to the field due to injuries sustained in the crisis.

Thursday’s drill scattered several students and faculty members in rooms throughout the school for response team members to locate and triage.

“Every single one of the people on the search-and-rescue teams are trained in both CPR and First Aid,” said Bob Shaw, economics teacher and head of Burbank High’s Search and Rescue.

As the teams survey the campus, they report back to the command center, where dispatches checking off rooms as they are inspected, logging medical needs and structural problems.

The drill went off in an orderly fashion, due in part to the fact that school officials warn the students about the drill ahead of time, so they know to expect it, Shaw said.

“The last thing we want is behavioral problems when we’re trying to accomplish a goal,” he said.

Some students waiting out the mock emergency on the athletic field said they were confident that the school would be ready to respond in a crisis.

“I think we’re very prepared,” said freshman James Lanham, 15. “Because we all know what to do, the procedures and where to go.”

But there is still an element of uncertainty if a real disaster hit, said freshman Marie Carns, 14.

“I think we’re prepared . . . but we might not know what’s going on,” she said.


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