Safety plan approved

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 26, 1999

By MICHELLE J. WILSON

Staff Writer

Published Aug. 26, 1999

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Troy City Schools officials hope a disaster like what happened in Columbine, Co., or more recently in Conyers, Ga., will never strike area schools, but they will be ready if something goes wrong.

System administrators are working with crisis management consultants from Birmingham to create new emergency plans.

"We are in the process of developing a crisis plan for each school and a system-wide plan which will incorporate those schools’ plans," said Jimmy Mathews, special education coordinator with Troy City Schools System. "Each school has a team headed by its principal that is drawing up its plan."

The plans are due to the central office Sept. 15.

Chances are low that something like what happened at Columbine will happen in Troy, but school administrators should be prepared for anything, said Kim Gedougas of the Amelia Center at a seminar Aug. 19.

Amelia Center specializes in critical instance counseling and assists schools in establishing crisis management plans.

Gedougas and her partner Andrew McNeil presented a crisis management seminar in two parts on July 27 and Aug. 19. The counselors will come back again in September to evaluate the school system’s plans.

Violence is not the only kind of crisis that might happen at area schools. Natural and human disasters, illness and injury, death, violence and crime, and family crisis are some of the types of events for which school officials should develop plans, Gedougas said.

Troy City Schools Superintendent Henry W. "Hank" Jones said, "We want to have a plan that allows us to address any tragedy should it occur.

"We pray that we don’t have to use it but are far better having a plan in case something were to come along."

The counselors outlined the steps school officials will follow to create a crisis management plan and then allowed them to develop their own ideas.

Gedougas told audience members they need to look at their community and decide for what types of incidents to prepare, identify the areas at risk in the schools and come up with a plan.

The structure of the plan will be based on two teams – external and internal – who will work together. The internal team is made up of school personnel and the external team includes law enforcement agencies, mental and physical health professionals, members of the Troy Fire Department, media and churches.

The goal of the crisis plan is to deal with the problem and bring normalcy back to the school.

Members of the Troy Police Department will be part of the external team of the school system’s crisis management plan, according to Sgt. Benny Scarbrough, TPD public information officer.

"We would work closely with the schools if our presence was requested," Scarbrough said.

If crisis were to strike, police would send in the Emergency Response Team (ERT) if necessary, Scarbrough said. ERT was formerly known as SWAT (special weapons and tactical) The team was renamed because it now includes a rescue aspect. Police work together with the fire department and ambulance service when their assistance is needed.

"It is great the school is doing this," Scarbrough said. "We want to be a resource for the school system.

"We thank them for letting us be a part of this process. We can accomplish more when we pool our resources."

Lt. Ed Brown, chief investigator with Troy Fire Department, said firefighters are also prepared to participate in the crisis management plan.

"Our role would depend on the circumstance," Brown said. "This is a good idea because it is helping school personnel recognize problems with the kids that occur both in and out of school."