Minor incident highlights safetyPublished 9:39am Friday, October 2, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
The small fire that broke out in the boiler room at Ring Lardner Middle School earlier this week may have been only a minor incident but it highlighted the practice of school safety that takes place in districts across the state and the country.
Niles City Fire Chief Larry Lamb said Wednesday that the efforts made on behalf of school districts to practice the response aid first responders in their efforts to get situations like what happened at Ring Lardner on Monday under control.
“I thought everything went well,” Lamb said. “Obviously when we arrive on any incident it takes us a moment … to get our hands around the incident.”
Situations where calls come from schools, hospitals or retirement living centers, some might say, can up the level of concern for first responders as they are dealing with a large number of people and structures with plenty of rooms in which there could be even more.
“Your primary concern in any of these things is the people’s safety,” Lamb said.
Monday’s incident, admittedly small, still warranted a rather impressive response from the city and township fire departments, with between 13 and 15 firefighters on scene – what Lamb said was an average number “on a good day.”
“We count on the schools,” he added, to be as prepared as possible.
A lot of time is spent focusing on school safety. Niles Superintendent Doug Law said the district is “required by law” to have six fire drills each year. Two of them are required to take place in between class periods or during lunch hours.
Typically two or three of those required drills are held at the start of the school year in September, Law said.
Students can also expect to take part in another, police controlled lock down drill – which finds officers overseeing the drill throughout the district.
“[The] police take it really seriously,” Law said.
Lamb had the same to say in regard to the fire drills about school officials.
“They followed the plan,” he said. “Notification was quick” and what he saw as an orderly and systematic “evacuation of the building.”
“The orderly response is kind of the big thing,” he said.
The incident also highlighted the school’s new alert program it had been preparing for since last winter.
An automated message went out to parents Monday to let them know children had been evacuated from the school just hours before an initial test message was scheduled for later in the evening – what would have been the first of the new Instant Alert system.
Back in February, Law said the “sophisticated” program would create better communication with parents.
Following Monday’s incident he said while very few calls were received from parents overall, those that did come in were to verify or clarify the contact information of the Instant Alert system.
A minor incident with one very major benefit – a sign that officials and students are prepared.
In some instances, said Lamb, it could be a matter of great importance that they got out quickly.”