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Gas Evacuation Plan Main Topic At La Grande School Districts Tabletop Emergency Exercise

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La Grande – (Release from La Grande School District) What if a large truck carrying chlorine gas crashed near La Grande High School? Would staff and students need to shelter in place or evacuate? Would the middle school and Central Elementary also need to take action?

These questions and more were pondered and discussed at a recent Tabletop Exercise at the District Office of La Grande School District.  The purpose is to engage attendees on the concepts of emergency management in schools through scenario-based work. The exercise was led by the School Safety and Emergency Management (SSEM) program from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). Administrators from all LGSD school buildings attended the event to listen, learn and give input about procedures they would follow in this unlikely, but possible, event. Local law enforcement personnel also attended.

The group talked about the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) that they follow, supplies they have on hand if they had to seal out dangerous chlorine gas, where evacuation sites are located, and how they would reunify students with parents. One crucial item discussed was the logistics of communicating with radios instead of cell phones, which may not be able to be charged. One of the ODE trainers pointed out that it’s important for leaders to practice how to communicate on radios as “you will have to communicate complex ideas in an easy, understandable way in a very short time.”

Scott Carpenter, LGSD Assistant Superintendent, said the district decided to go through the Tabletop Exercise to determine how efficient and reliable current plans are and to practice protocols, which is always crucial. “We want to ensure that we have the resources we need, review what roles district leaders will fill in such an event and improve our plans if needed,” Carpenter said.

One result of the exercise that ODE organizers and Carpenter noticed was that La Grande SD has a robust collaboration with local police and fire agencies. “Our relationships with law enforcement are very good, and that is a strength that will help in a situation similar to what we practiced,” Carpenter said.

For more information about SSEM, visit: https://www.oregon.gov/ode/schools-and-districts/grants/Pages/School-Safety-and-Emergency-Management.aspx

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