Last night, folks living in the hills of Fullerton saw an awful lot of black smoke, helicopters, and fire trucks. Coyote Hills, a hotly contested undeveloped space had caught fire and was burning. Some residents in La Habra were under voluntary evacuations as crews tried to get the blaze under control. Events like this remind me that we always need to be prepared for the worst and that to be prepared, you actually have to do something! Hope is not an effective preparation strategy.
In my case, the trigger or call to action was a series of fires several years ago near where I live in Anaheim Hills and Yorba Linda. Once the smoke had cleared, my husband and I put together a home emergency kit that was portable enough to throw into a car, but substantial enough that we, including our pets, could live on it for a short while. After that event, I went to my principal and asked what emergency plans, equipment and supplies were prepared for the school. The answer? Not a whole lot... Yes, we had our regular earthquake drills and our kits in the classroom, but there was no light rescue equipment to rescue children trapped by that earthquake. First aid equipment was also nonexistent and I was pretty sure that we'd need more than just band-aids to get through a serious emergency.
So, I made it my goal to get the school ready for an emergency, should one arise. We purchased rescue equipment (axes, pry bars, hard hats, etc.) and had backpacks donated. The first aid kit got a massive overhaul and we bought an awful lot of bandages, splints, saline rinse and portable stretchers. We made our own flags and bought vests to replace those in the command center kit that had disappeared into thin air over the years. We assigned folks to fill all of the positions on the ICS roster and made sure that folks actually knew how to do their assigned jobs. We purchased additional radios (two weren't going to be anywhere near enough).
After lots of preparation, we finally did a full-scale disaster drill in which we practiced our search and rescue, setting up first aid and releasing students. How'd it go? Well, let's just say it wasn't a disaster (pun intended), but it wasn't a resounding success either. Staff filled out feedback forms online and we revised our plan, purchased missing materials and got ready for another year. That was four years ago now, and last year all of the principals visited the campus to observe the mock disaster drill. And even though I'm no longer a staff member at that site, I have to say that I'm awfully proud of helping get it all into place to ensure the safety of our students and staff.
Next month is the annual Great ShakeOut drill. Will you school participate in a mock drill? And I don't just mean a standard earthquake drill. Will you really participate by doing a full disaster drill? Do you have a plan in place to keep everyone safe? Do you have the equipment and supplies needed to put that plan into action? If you don't, bring it up to your staff, principal or boss. In the end, it's up to us to ensure the safety of our students while they are in our care on campus!