Whether it’s a small fire in a trash can or a shooter on campus, the Payson Unified School District (PUSD) now has a plan to handle emergencies that even includes how to get a handle on SUVs or Spontaneous Uninvited Volunteers.
Seeking approval of the Emergency Response Plan (ERP) the district has worked on all year, Susan Campbell, district emergency response plan coordinator, made a presentation to the PUSD board on May 12.
“ERPs are much more prescriptive than they were in the past, so we wanted to tell you what went into developing these plans in the past,” Campbell told the board.
She said there are six pillars to the modern emergency response plan:
• Prevention – lowers the risk of human-caused accidents.
• Protection – reduces the threat to people, property and environment.
• Mitigation – corrects ahead of time conditions that could contribute to an incident or make a certain type of incident more likely to happen.
• Preparedness – allows the district to be more proactive with incidents through training, drills and observation.
• Response – manages the course of the incident and puts all the available pieces together for the most effective response.
• Recovery – gets the school back to the educational process because “That’s what we’re here for and it’s very important,” said Campbell.
She said plans to address emergencies have undergone radical changes since Sept. 11.
“NIMS (National Incident Management System) was developed post 9/11, because there were some serious problems to the response with the 9/11 incident,” said Campbell. “For instance with communications ... many first responders from different agencies and organizations were on different channels. Nobody could communicate with each other and they didn’t use a common language.”
Campbell said now all emergency responders use plain English rather than intricate codes and acronyms.
Another problem the 9/11 relief efforts revealed — everybody wanted to help all at once — or as Campbell said she heard at one training, “SUVs – Spontaneous Uninvited Volunteers.”
To mitigate an overwhelming response of volunteers, the PUSD plan has clear directives on a chain of command that asks for specific help for particular emergency needs.
“So, for example, does the school nurse need to respond to the fire in the trash can?” asked Campbell. “Probably not if there are no injuries and it just needs to be put out. But does she need to respond to a suspected case of measles? Absolutely.”
Campbell has worked tirelessly and persistently for the past year to coordinate training sessions for school principals and hold meetings attended by local emergency responders.
She said 13 people in the district from the principals to secretaries have gone through a series of tests, simulated emergency responses and practiced debriefing.
This year, the district had a chance to have a live situation in February when a probation officer walked onto campus with a gun and did not register at the office. The school went on lockdown until it was resolved.
“After our February incident we were debriefing with Payson Police Department by 10 a.m. that morning — and as a result several changes have been made,” said Campbell.
Community member and school board candidate Darlene Yonker, during the constituent comment period, wondered why the ERP was not made completely available to the public.
“In looking through the paperwork, you have one sheet that says, that ERPs are not for public information. And my question is, why is it not for public information?” she said.
Campbell said the full contents of the plan are protected by law, to keep the information from getting out to those seeking to harm students. “We don’t want to put it out so that anybody who has some bad ideas about coming on our campuses knows exactly how we do certain things,” said Campbell. “The entire plan is protected by law, but we have put out the parts we believe the public can see. And then we have other things we are not going to put out to the public.”
Campbell said the board will need to approve the emergency response plan policy every year.
The board unanimously voted to support the ERP.