VAN WERT – On Wednesday morning, shortly after school started, Van Wert City Schools conducted a full-scale evacuation drill. High school and middle school students walked from the facility on State Route 118 to LifeHouse Church on Fox Road, while elementary students were bused to the evacuation location.
“We are required to do three drills over a three year period,” said Van Wert Assistant Superintendent Bill Clifton. “Three years ago, we did a functional exercise. Last year we did a table top exercise, and that table top exercise was actually in preparation for today’s full-scale exercise with a complete evacuation.”
Clifton said over 1,700 first through 12th graders were transferred to the evacuation site. He said it could not have been done without the help of several organizations and people.
In order to successfully conduct the drill and ensure safety, the Van Wert City Police, the Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol Van Wert Post, the EMA, CERT, and Van Wert Fire and EMS were on-site to direct students to LifeHouse and to stop traffic on State Route 118 and Fox Road as students proceeded to the evacuation location.
The exercise scenario was that there was a chemical spill on State Route 118 and the fire department notified the school that they needed to evacuate. The scenario was not an active shooter exercise. During an active shooter exercise, students and staff would practice a lock down drill and would not leave the school until given an “all-clear.”
“We’re pretty good at locking down our classrooms,” said Clifton who said he felt that staff and students have had a lot of practice for active shooter situations. “What we have not practiced is the most complex part of the safety drill process and that is transferring large populations of students and staff from point A to point B. Today we were able to do that very successfully.”
The evacuation took a little over an hour. After it was over, students were bused back to their schools. Later in the afternoon, Early Childhood Education students completed the drill where they walked to St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic School.
Clifton noted that a debriefing will take place among building leaders next week to discuss what did and didn’t work during the exercise.
“I have to applaud our law enforcement,” said Van Wert Superintendent Vicki Brunn. “Everyone was there; everybody jumped in, and they take it seriously.”
The drill is state mandated and must be done every three years. The drill was overseen by the Ohio School Safety Center and was planned by the Van Wert City Schools District Safety Team. Around a year’s worth of planning took place to ensure the drill was successful.
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