LPS takes next steps in sports and special events safety training

How should school stadiums be evacuated if severe weather is moving in?
Where should fans at a soccer match or marching band contest go if there is a threat of lightning?

Members of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) worked with Lincoln Public Schools employees and others from around the area to investigate those types of questions Aug. 3-4 during a major training initiative at Lincoln East High School. The series of classes also covered emergency evacuation best practices and protocols with Nebraska officials. 

Athletic and activities directors from all eight LPS high schools along with school employees from Centennial, Elkhorn, Grand Island, Lewiston, Omaha Nation and Waverly public schools attended the two-day event in collaboration with the Lincoln Police Department, City of Lincoln Emergency Communications and City of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities.

This training was part two of a three-part series that NCS4 representatives are holding at LPS sites.
LPS Security Coordinator Kyle Poore said he was pleased to see many people at the training. He felt it would help schools that may face medical or weather emergencies at games or activities.
“Having a federal training using best practices gives not only Lincoln, but other communities we compete against, an opportunity to collaborate and it has enormous value,” Poore said.
LPS Athletics and Activities Director JJ Toczek also felt it was important to include many city and school groups. He said those personal connections would make a big difference in emergencies where seconds matter.
“That really is one of the best things about this,” Toczek said. “We’re getting to share ideas and come together from a collaborative standpoint, which is critical when it comes to these types of situations. We’re gaining that knowledge and experience together.”

A key portion of the training involved evacuation plans. Severe weather will be one of the most common emergency scenarios at many Nebraska school districts. A tornado warning could prompt schools to evacuate a gym or stadium, while hail or lightning could cause the same outcome at outdoor-only venues.
Poore said it is vital to have an evacuation plan in place before an incident unfolds. He said being prepared benefits everyone who may be at the game or activity.
“Last year we learned about what our risks are at our different events, and this year is focusing on how to respond to those incidents, which primarily include weather,” Poore said. “The key to this class is to ensure we are creating plans for evacuation, relocations and shelter-in-place. It is important our staff knows these plans and how we will respond when these actions are called.”

A detailed plan can also help those in attendance remain calm when they realize the school has a well-thought-out safety strategy. Poore said preparation was critical for ensuring that will happen at all LPS events.
“People will be confident in us if two things are in place,” Poore said. “One, they know we have a plan and two, they trust us. We have to build a solid plan, and they will trust us when we communicate the plan and when they arrive they see us using the plan.”

LPS has become a highly-respected member of the school crisis management network. NCS4 representatives were impressed with the school district during last year’s training session, and they honored Poore with the 2023 Emerging Industry Leader Award at their national conference last June. 
LPS officials are using the training to adapt their current emergency procedures as the 2023-24 school year arrives. Toczek said the public could feel good about the level of safety and security they will experience at LPS gyms, auditoriums, stadiums, fields and diamonds.
“We want to let the community know that we’re thinking about these things and are looking out for everyone who’s at one of our activities,” Toczek said. “This is really important to us. We want to have the procedures in place to make sure everyone is safe.”

Published: August 18, 2023, Updated: August 18, 2023

Fred Gardy of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) speaks with city and school officials at Seacrest Field in Lincoln on Aug. 4. Activities directors from all eight LPS high schools took part in the training session, which was designed to help schools with medical or weather emergencies at games or activities. This year’s training was part two of a three-part series that NCS4 officials are holding at LPS sites.