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Staying focused on safety during emergencies

Lincoln Public Schools staged an emergency exercise on Friday morning that focused on the process after the evacuation of a school, when parents would need to pick up their children at a safe, alternative site.

Friday’s exercise involved more than 100 4th- and 5th-grade students from Randolph Elementary School, who were bused to Lincoln Southwest High School because of a mock emergency. Southwest, due to its size, design and security features, is where all elementary and middle schools would relocate during a serious emergency.

The exercise is part of the district’s continuous efforts to plan for the unexpected and ensure the safety of its students, said LPS Director of Security Joseph Wright. All LPS schools have evacuation plans in place, but Friday’s exercise took those plans one step further - to the “reunification” phase.

“What we’d like parents to know is that we’re looking closely at this process and that we have a plan in place to handle a serious situation,” Wright explained.

The exercise’s primary purpose was to identify potential issues with the school district’s reunification plan - reuniting students and families after a possible crisis - and address them before a real emergency occurs. Representatives from numerous local and state agencies were on hand to offer feedback, including the Lincoln Police and Fire departments, Lancaster County Emergency Management and the Nebraska Department of Education.

“This is a work in progress,” Wright said. “That’s why we’re doing this - to get feedback from as many people as possible.”

Randolph students stayed with their teachers and watched a movie in the main gym for about an hour while most of the drill occurred - just outside the gym in the hallway and south entrance area. LPS staff posed as parents arriving at the school and were led through the process of individually being reunified with their children.

“If we are confronted with this situation, we need to safeguard the students and their environment so we can make a controlled handoff to their parents,” Wright said.

Southwest Principal Mike Gillotti played an integral role in planning and carrying out Friday’s exercise, which he deemed a success.

“As a district goes, we are way out in front as far as how we’re planning for this.”


Published: September 15, 2017, Updated: September 15, 2017

“What we’d like parents to know is that we’re looking closely at this process and that we have a plan in place to handle a serious situation,”

Joe Wright, Director of Security

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