Douglas County schools practice safety skills

Even though they hope never to use them, every Douglas County school has a safety manual containing plans for different emergency situations - from lock-down procedures to information on methods of communication.

"I have a manual here (in the school district office) and one at home," said Superintendent John Soderman. "Depending on the situation, sometimes the students have to leave and sometimes they have to stay put."

The shooting at Pine Middle School in Reno Tuesday involving a 14-year-old who brought a gun to school and shot a fellow student brought school safety to mind.

"Schools are open places so we have to have plans on how to take care of the kids," Soderman said.

He said school officials learned a lot from the mercury spill at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School in January, 2004 that closed the school for nearly three weeks until a clean-up could be completed.

After the spill, the school district purchased a phone-dialing system similar to the one used during the shooting at the Reno middle school.

"Incident command is critical so the phone system was a great idea," he said. "We can reassure thousands of people to let them know what's going on.

"We have a method of informing throughout the buildings in case of emergency," he said. "Right now, our phone dialing system is used for snow days."

Soderman said they perform shelter and place drills, practice school evacuation and ways to deal with emergency situations.

"It can never be a perfect scenario," he said. "We never thought we'd have to do these emergency protocols, but they're a godsend."

Soderman said the school officials at Pine Middle School looked to be prepared for the situation.

Practicing procedures from their safety manuals kept the situation from being worse than it was.

"Most trauma can be created when people don't know what they're doing," he said. "Those people in Reno looked calm and cool in the TV news but they were probably shaking inside."


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