UC Coordinates First-Of-Its-Kind Exercise To Prepare Ohio Schools For Terrorist Attacks

National and state experts on homeland security will work with school personnel as they respond to a hypothetical terrorist attack. The day-long workshop will take place from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20, in the Belvador Room at the Kings Island Inn and Conference Center in Mason, Ohio.

If the unthinkable happened, how will school officials evacuate the children safely? Is the incident a threat to other schools, and how should they be warned? How will the school safety team coordinate with emergency teams? How will parents and surrounding neighborhoods be notified?

The so-called “tabletop” terrorism exercise will begin at 1 p.m. in the Belvador Room. Working from their tables, more than 200 representatives from area school districts will observe, while a safety team from Oak Hills High School applies its existing crisis plan, coordinating with local emergency responders to contain the attack.

“Oak Hills School District, as well as every other school district in Ohio, has been directed by Senate Bill 1 to create a comprehensive school crisis plan,” explains Robert Canning, assistant director for the Ohio Resource Network for Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities, headquartered at the University of Cincinnati. “The bill requires boards of education to adopt comprehensive school safety plans for each school building and specifies certain components of the plans, including methods of addressing serious threats to safety and responding to emergencies.

“Now that the schools have finalized their plans, we’ve been working on funding to assist schools with the next level – practice,” Canning says.

The workshop is funded by a $100,000 grant from Ohio Homeland Security and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. It’s the first of 10 statewide exercises that will be held throughout Ohio in 2004 and 2005, coordinated by the UC-based Ohio Resource Network for Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities, the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and the Ohio Department of Education.

The Titan Corporation, which has national experts who specialize in homeland security preparedness, is also developing and assisting with the tabletop exercises, under contract with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

“This is the first time in the country that Titan’s professionals will be providing security training for school systems,” says Canning.

Jan. 20 Workshop Schedule:

  • 8:30 a.m.-noon, Belvador Room
    School climate: Bullying, school violence and substance abuse come under discussion. The session will also examine the emotional and mental aspects of dealing with a terrorist crisis, both during the event and in the aftermath. Speakers from the UC Ohio Resource Network for Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities (headquartered at the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services) will include Bonnie Hedrick, director; Robert Canning, assistant director; Nicole Schiesler, senior health educator, Andrea Barker, coordinator for Safe School Projects; and Eric Hall, manager for School and Community Safety and Security Projects.
  • Noon-1 p.m., Belvador Room
    Discussion from the morning session will continue during lunch.
  • 1-4:30 p.m., Belvador Room
    The Oak Hills High School emergency response plan is reviewed during a hypothetical terrorist attack. The discussion will examine the administration’s decision-making process; student movement, placement and tracking; interaction with local police and other first-responders; and notifying the public.





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