Emergency Action team members deal with a simulated earthquake and rescue situation at Tustumena Elementary school.
Living in a land of earth quakes, volcanoes, wildfire, and floods requires on going training and preparation for emergencies and natural disasters, a challenge that the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD) takes very seriously. Last week KPBSD Assistant Superintendent Glen Szymoniak led training sessions for principals and volunteers from Tustumena to Homer, “We conducted an all day training session with principals from each school along with a staff person, parent, and community volunteers to prepare for any disaster that may happen. It was a long hard day, but everyone did fantastic and stuck with it, they not only got the big picture of what their job is, but learned the skills with which to carry it out,” Szymoniak told the Dispatch.
According to Szymoniak everyone took the sessions very seriously and the result is an increased level of preparedness for emergencies in our local schools, “We certainly are a lot more prepared than we were a week ago, we’ve trained most of the schools in the Central Peninsula area and Seward. We have two more sessions in Homer, so by the end of this week a team from every school on the Kenai Peninsula will have been trained,” said Szymoniak.
The simulated disaster training was done in concert with the Kenai Fire Department, Central Emergency Services, Borough Office of Emergency Management, State Troopers and City police. Given the recent events at Virginia Tech when parents were desperate to locate their children, Szymoniak reminded the public that, “We must first put our resources on the students that are injured or at risk of being injured. It can be a trying time for parents not to be able to get that information right away however; we are prepared to let the parents of the injured students know their status immediately.” The big picture during any emergency will be available on the KPBSD web site, “For instance what schools are being closed and general information about the situation at each site, but as far as other specifics each site now has the capability to update their website with that detailed information. Local radio stations also play a major role in keeping the public informed during a major disaster,” added Szymoniak. Those involved with last weeks training will share what they learned next fall when school starts again so that all staff and personal at each school site will be trained and prepared.
Funding for the Emergency Action Plan training was provided in part by Kenai High School senior Hannah Watkins. Two years ago Watkins won 1st Place in the annual Caring for the Kenai contest sponsored by Chevron and Agrium for her books to teach disaster preparedness to elementary school children. With local sponsorship Watkins went on to publish her book and write four others which won three national awards including the Soroptimist’s Very Best in Youth Award. Watkins made $2,700 from those awards available to the Borough’s Office of Emergency Management for materials for last week’s training. Watkins series of books, James and the Volcano, Spencer and the Wildfire, Molly and the Earthquake, and Heidi and the Tsunami are available at the OEM website www.borough.kenai.ak.us/emergency.
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