Friday, October 10, 2008

Control staff and parents by focusing on fear.

Principal Letter to Parents

Dear Parents,

Our school will be conducting its first Shelter-in-Place drill Oct XX. Since this is a new drill for our district and school community, we thought you would find this information helpful in understanding the purpose and intent. Not all the steps outlined below will be practiced. No tape or plastic will be used nor will the ventilation system be turned off. This will only be done in the event of a real emergency.

Shelter-in-Place is used in an emergency where hazardous materials may have been released into the atmosphere, making it necessary to create an environment within the school where air sources from the outside can be controlled or eliminated. Our school may need to shelter in place due to chemical, biological, or radiological contaminants being released accidentally or intentionally into the environment. This is a precaution to keep our students and staff safe while remaining indoors. When we shelter-in-place we select small, interior rooms, with no or few windows and take refuge there. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems would be shutdown and building doors will be locked to prevent outside air from entering the building until it is safe to leave the shelter area. The selected location is sealed with plastic sheeting and duct tape over windows, doors, and vents.

If there is a need to use shelter-in-place during a real emergency, we would listen to direction from the fire department directly or via television, radio, or NOAA radio. They will advise us of what precautions are needed. We would keep a radio with us to tune into a local radio station to listen for the threat to pass. This drill is an opportunity for us as a school community to practice our safety measures. This type of drill is not something we do often in school, but is important for us to practice so we can learn how to improve in case there is ever a real threat in our area.


The letter doesn't ask for feedback, or offer a way to get more information. Not sure who will be impressed. As a parent, I certainly didn't find the information helpful.

If we want kids to be safe and healthy, let's not have them walking so far to school. Let's build real sidewalks in our communities. Let's pass out bicycle helmets and have bicycle rodeos. Let's have nurses more than one day a week. Where's the funding for basic and obvious needs?

Isn't it enough already to have fire drills, earthquake drills, and lockdowns; not to mention the occasional dog on the playground when everyone has to come in? Just how many other scenarios are there? Are grief counselors part of the next drills? How low can we go? Why?

I want my kid's teacher to teach, and correct papers, and plan excellent lessons - not to have follow up emergency meetings, not to figure out where to store plastic and duct tape, not to have to squeeze the same learning into less time. She's a teacher, not an emergency resource. Leave her alone - and my kid too. Practice on weekends.

Are there any readers out there who can tell me where my child will be "sheltering" and for how long? How many more drills there are?

Name withheld by request


Anonymous said...

Yeah, don't read the blog because they aren't making plans to save your children.

...and Mark Zandberg pals around with Terrorists.

Anonymous said...

This post is actually pretty silly. This is a special and very new kind of drill for the district, so someone thought to actually TELL parents FIRST before kids came home with strange stories after the fact.

Which would you want: the info first, or the scare later?

The district qualified for some grant money and a requirement is that we practice this new kind of drill. I took it to mean the following: We got a bunch of cash to help us in a real emergency, and to keep the money we have to alter one of our stupid drills we do 20 times a year and actually do a new one in which the training we get might actually help us in a real-life scenario.

I was told that this drill was simply a focus on a different scenario:

What would happen if there was an industrial spill or gas truck that overturned near the school? We can't leave the building, right? But we still need to "drill in place" so the kids can all go to a safe, central location inside the building.

If we don't practice it, it's kind of hard to do for real if it ever came to that.

I didn't read this memo as "control by fear" but if that's your experience then you are welcome to it.

Frankly, I'm a little tired of you ragging on EVERYTHING that comes out of the ESC. Every once in a while, someone might just do something useful and appropriate for their pay grade.

If your kid was in a school and they NEVER practiced for the kinds of real-life events that have happened all over the US, you'd just blame the school board later.

Anonymous said...

You sound like a district employee. You should know that Nick doesn't acknowledge anonymous comments so we will just ignore this one.

And my children don't attend your schools.

And are you tired of Mr(s). "Name Withheld" ragging on the District?

Anonymous said...

Emergency preparedness is a necessary evil (?). Like it or not, if a natural or manmade disaster occurs during the school day, you child’s teacher has no choice but to lead during an emergency. Being prepared is the smart thing to do. Drilling is a way to figure out if the procedure that has been established works well enough to actually work in a real emergency.

Shelter in place is used when a) there may be potential exposure to poisonous fumes/vapors from a nearby hazardous materials accident b) there is police activity in the vicinity so that your child doesn’t get caught in crossfire and c) when there is violent intruder on campus that may harm your child.

Fire, earthquake, and shelter in place drills are a fact of life. Be happy that the school district takes this seriously.

Claire Olsovsky
Former Loss Control Safety Specialist said...

Dear Anonymous #2,

I did not write this entry. In fact, in reading Claire's comments. I totally agree with her assessment of the situation.

I do, however, find it interesting that a drill would not include actual tape and plastic. It would be a good idea for someone to confirm that tape will actually stick to the surface identified. It would be a shame to go through all of the effort of a drill and discover a little too late that plastic cannot be taped where it needs to be.

As for blaming the school board, a little bit more won't make much difference. If they can't swim in a pool, they can't swim in a lake either.

Anonymous said...


Your attitude really confuses me.

You deliberately chose to create a posting here that neither you nor CLAIRE agrees with.

Your title for the post is about using control and fear - although that has nothing to do with what you know to be going on (it is just a new drill, Mark - please!).

If you don't agree with the things people write in, you don't have to add them. It is YOUR forum, after all. said...

I am not sure if I can agree with you. While I moderate this forum, I only delete comments that use excessive profanity or potentially reveal too much personal data.

I would prefer to let others guide the forum. If they have something important to say, I want others to read it.

If I refused to give everyone equal time, I would be emulating the Superintendent - and that is not a success strategy.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see us have "Grizzly Bears on Playground" drills like they have in Anchorage, Alaska. Apparently you curl up into a little ball and hope the Grizzly finds someone else more tasty!

Anonymous said...

I don't even want to imagine 600+ middle school students in "small, interior rooms, with no or few windows"!!!!

Anonymous said...

The schools around the Umatilla Depot practice sheltering in place frequently since the army is destroying stockpiles of mustard gas, among other serious stuff. Actually, there is an annual drill for the entire community, not just the schools.

While it does make your eyes roll about too many drills, it is the drilling that may save lives in said emergency. If you don't know what to expect, you are likely to do the wrong thing.

That having been said, it is a potential distraction to the learning environment and DOES place the teacher on the front lines of potential unexpected reactions by students that they may not be trained to handle.

Six of one, half dozen of the other.

Is there a planned meeting for parents to discuss this with school staff (not with the possibility of a veto but rather a calm explanation) or is this a fait accompli that will be sprung on everyone at some unknown point in time?

Anonymous said...

I think drills are a great way to prepare for the real thing. In our district we are no way ready for the real thing. The emergency communication system is a joke. Employees working in the field may or may not get the message about a drill or a real issue. Many field people were out and about and found out at the last minute they could not deliver to the buildings. The drill was done at a time when Food Service Drivers were deliverying food why didn't the drill take place at 1PM instead of 9:30 or 10:00 AM.

Sometimes I get the emergency notice from Marla Miller and other times she is not notified so she has not way to notify anyone. Which is what worries me because one day it will be the real thing and people could get hurt or die.

Thru the eyes of Linda H

Anonymous said...

I was the "wing leader" for drills. That meant that just before the drill was to occur, I was given a walkie talkie so that I could communicate with the administrative team when all teachers reported that all students were either accounted for or not.

I once asked what would happen if there was an actual emergency where no one had pre-delivered a walkie talkie (like the earthquake in February 2001). I was just given a blank look as the administrator walked away.

Anonymous said...

Marla trying to save money by not having the emergency equipment needed to save lives.