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Superintendent looks at emergency supply kits

Letter from ministry sparks action

School District 47 is reviewing its policies related to storing earthquake kits in schools at the request of the ministry of education.

A letter from deputy minister James Gorman to superintendents of school districts across the province expresses that recent events “around the world serve as reminders that our schools must be well prepared to respond to a wide range of emergencies.” The letter asks that districts ensure procedures are in place and well understood and suggests that local practices be reviewed in regards to “the safe storage, handling and refreshing of safety and emergency supplies.”

Currently, schools in the district are not equipped with earthquake or emergency preparedness kits. These kits typically include essential supplies needed in the aftermath of an earthquake such as water, food, flashlights, a radio and other items.

Jay Yule, district superintendent of schools, said local schools used to keep emergency supplies but the practice stopped after the district entered into the integrated community response plan. With this plan students would evacuate the building and gather outside for attendance, at which point either parents would pick their children up or school buses would be used to take students home.

Yule said that if parents are unable to reach their children the students go to the nearest community muster station to wait for their parents. If emergency response is needed at the school then the City of Powell River would be called in to deal with that situation.

With the prompting of the letter, Yule said that the district will now be looking into whether it should keep emergency kits in schools and to ensure that it has a “coordinated approach with local government.”

“Certainly, it’s something we would do if it’s not a huge cost issue,” said Yule. “One of the issues was maintaining the kits.”

Doug Nauer, Provincial Emergency Program coordinator, said that in the case of an earthquake the first plan to be put in place would be the individual school’s and then the school district’s and then the city would become involved. In a situation where students are trapped in a school, Nauer said that city emergency crews would respond.

“Sometimes the school plan is enough to look after the situation right there,” said Nauer. “If the school feels that more resources are needed then the city would respond and then if we felt that we needed more resources then we would go to the province.”

Children who have been evacuated from their school and have not been claimed by their parents would be the responsibility of the city just like any other citizen, said Nauer.

At that point the city would do what it can to assist the students and if extra help is needed then provincial and federal resources will be called in.

Yule described a situation where a school building collapses on students as “something that nobody is ready to deal with.”