Comox Valley School Board urged to be prepared for emergencies

Earthquake. Fire. Bomb threat. Medical emergency.

These are some of the things School District 71 must be ready for.

Earthquake. Fire. Bomb threat. Medical emergency.

These are just a few of the things that the Comox Valley School District’s district principal of health and safety Paul Berry says the district must be prepared for, physically and operationally.

Berry outlined a comprehensive emergency preparedness program called Hour Zero during January’s board meeting, when he also said the district needs to beef up its emergency preparedness plans.

During Tuesday’s meeting trustees showed they took his presentation seriously as they approved allocating $150,000 for the program from the 2012/13 operating budget.

“Paul Berry has done an excellent job in doing work in the school district looking at our emergency preparedness in all our schools, and certainly some schools are well-prepared, where other schools aren’t prepared,” said trustee Rick Grinham. “So, this makes an equal playing field across our school district and ensures that our whole school district has emergency preparedness kits that they’re going to need in case of emergency. This, to me, is critical.”

Grinham, who is the finance committee chair, noted the 2012/13 budget is looking like it will be about $300,000 in the black this year — though he still cautions budgets are tight in general and the district must be prudent due to costs in the years ahead.

According to Barry’s emergency preparedness budget submission, protocols have been developed over the past two years to support the school district in the event of a wide variety of natural and man-made crises, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Crises could include anything from weather closures and power outages, to hostile individuals, threats, abductions, missing students and school lockdowns. Berry’s submission also noted only about half of school district sites have the physical resources on-site to respond to a large-scale disaster.

The Hour Zero program provides common language, site-based resources, inventories, skill management, training, communications, emergency responder access and district level oversight.

About $90,000 will be allocated to Hour Zero implementation and training, but Barry noted this cost could come down a bit as the district will use its own expertise as much as possible for training purposes.

Other costs include the Hour Zero licence fee, annual support and licence fee, school site resourcing (72-hour emergency resources) and in-service training for the entire district, which includes teaching staff common language used by other emergency response groups such as police and firefighters to improve communication.

Trustees also approved allocating $50,000 from the 2014/15 operating budget and $40,000 from the 2015/16 operating budget for ongoing support of the emergency preparedness plan.

Over the three years of spending, about 75,000 would be spent stocking resources at school sites.