If an earthquake or other disaster occurred and you were responsible for the safety and well-being of 780 children from 5 to 12 years of age, what would you do?
Brent Palmer, principal of Brookwood Elementary School, 8640 Snowbird Drive, doesn't even like to think about it. But if it happens, his school will be as prepared as it is possible to be.The school's PTA is preparing emergency kits for each of the school's 26 classrooms, as well as other supplies that would sustain the school for a period of up to 12 hours if necessary.
"I had only two blankets," Palmer said. Not many to protect 780 little bodies if they were stranded in a cold building.
Now, in an emergency, each child would receive a packet containing a mylar blanket to preserve body heat, packets of dehydrated food (such as chicken a la king) and a packet of water to make the dehydrated food into a meal. It's the same type of ration soldiers in the Middle East are eating these days.
A plastic poncho to shield against moisture, a flashlight, a hand-warming device and other items to assure comfort are included in each child's kit. Inexpensive battery-operated radios have been donated to the school and the PTA promoters even have thought of games that would help children pass the time in enforced exile from their homes.
A plastic box will hold enough kits for the children in each room. In addition, the PTA hopes to provide sanitation kits for each room and the central office. Each holds five gallons of water and can be converted to a toilet if necessary.
Jody Innes, who has headed the PTA project, said a local emergency preparedness business gave the school a good price on the individual kits. In all, the project is expected to cost about $3,500, she said. The parent group is selling Brookwood Bears sweat shirts to cover the expenses.
Parents also will be asked to scour drawers and closets for gloves and hats that aren't being used, Palmer said. He hopes some local cleaner will volunteer to get the items clean and ready for use in an emergency.
The school, like many in the valley, also has devised a "calling tree" that would help to quickly alert all the parents in the neighborhood to an emergency. The callers have been assigned to groups close enough to each other to carry verbal messages should the telephone system be out, said Kim Olsen, PTA commissioner in charge of the phone tree. Kim Menzel, the Brookwood PTA president, also has been deeply involved in the push to prepare the school for a disaster.
While Palmer hopes it never happens, he is aware that an earthquake, a severe winter storm, power failure, chemical spill or other unexpected event could trigger the use of the school's preparedness plan.
Sometime this year, the school will test the plan, Palmer said. Questionnaires will be sent home to gauge the effectiveness of the effort.
"Our kids are excited," he said. "We've held assemblies and made the children aware, then encouraged them to take the message home."
Rather than heightening their fear of an event they can't control, the effort to be prepared, he thinks, has given the students "a sense of peace."