The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

August 16, 2013

Staying safe in school

(Continued)

The kids will practice four simulated emergencies this year.

"That's actually state law. Two fire drills and two tornado drills," Hissem said.

They may add intruder drills to the mix this year.

"We've partnered with the sheriff's department, and it's been a very positive partnership," he said.

In Ottumwa, they actually have binders in each school office. Those folders describe exactly what to do in case of an emergency.

"Each building puts together emergency procedures, a safety plan," said Principal Jeff Hendred at Horace Mann Elementary School. "It lists how we'll evacuate, how we keep track of the kids, who makes phone calls to the [district] central office. It's so detailed because we're responsible for so many children."

He said as his building practices the procedures, he'll watch to see what works and what doesn't. The plans, with approval, can be adjusted annually.

"We hope there are no emergencies, but we're ready to respond," Hendred said. "We've gone through and practiced, and there is a copy in each teachers' classroom, so we know what to do and it's not just something that's in a book."

Another plan that he says is unfortunate but necessary is how to help students when a child dies. The district put together a crisis intervention plan, he said, and he's seen it used when young people die in a car accident or from suicide. Teachers are told what to look for in a child who may need support during the grieving process, Hendred said.

While nearly all safety and security measures are the job of an adult at the school, there is a chance for students to practice an adult level of discipline: becoming a crossing guard on the school safety patrol.

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