Southern Holds Second Safety Drill

School Safety

                            Southern Holds Second Safety Drill


   SALINEVILLE-Southern Local Schools held a second safety drill on Nov. 1 , but this time it was on a smaller scale to help review and improve response.


   Superintendent Tom Cunningham said the exercise was conducted in-house and addressed some matters noted in the full-scale scenario on Oct. 19. Cunningham said the previous exercise tested the district’s safety plan and centered on an active intruder and bomb threat, which included the evacuation of Southern Local High School students while the elementary building was placed in lockdown. Columbiana County Sheriff Brian McLaughlin and several deputies joined School Resource Officer Deputy Jeffrey Haugh in a “search” of the buildings while the high school students were briefly taken to a safety zone. The Highlandtown Volunteer Fire Department and county Emergency Management Agency were also involved and officials said a few issues arose which led to the second drill.


   The latest effort on Tuesday switched things up a bit and the high school was placed on lockdown while elementary students were evacuated. None of the safety forces were on hand for that event, but organizers said they were pleased with results in the end.


   “I thought it went very well and the cooperation from the staff and students was excellent,” Cunningham commented. “We were able to correct deficiencies from our last drill and this will make us faster with response and we’ll be better prepared.”


   Deputy Haugh said the elementary students boarded buses and were sent offsite while the high school was in a hard lockdown for 10 minutes, and the entire exercise took about 40 minutes to complete.


   “We locked down the high school and then changed it to a soft lockdown so the teachers could continue to teach their classes,” he added. “They deserve a great pat on the back because they did everything perfectly. It all went very smoothly and we addressed things from the first time around. This went very well.”


   He noted that more drills may be conducted in the future, but leaders primarily held Tuesday’s scenario to address matters. Meanwhile, the district is taking further action by making a much-needed update to its radio systems. Haugh said some of the equipment was antiquated and needed to be replaced, but the overall plan to ensure that all parties had a clear connection.


   “We’re upgrading the radios from analog to digital,” he said, adding that new hand-held devices were ordered last year. “The repeater system for the buses are at least 20 years old and we don’t have the parts for them. We were at the point where they needed upgraded.”


   The improvement is being funded through the district’s general fund but Southern has applied for a grant which could help defray costs. Leaders are seeking up to $200,000 from the state School Safety Grant Program through the Governor’s Office to upgrade cameras and other safety-related technology in each building. 


   “We’re hoping to get the radios reimbursed from the grant but we needed them regardless,” Deputy Haugh added.


   Cunningham said that the grant application was submitted and he was awaiting a response, and he agreed the equipment was a necessity.


   “The radios were dated and communication was spotty. We ordered them a year ago but the supply chain has been slow, which impacted us, but now we’ll be covered.”