School district addresses safety

Lenape Regional High School District recently held a two-day emergency planning course, designed by FEMA and hosted by the state police, to prepare the schools to handle emergency situations.

“Back in the fall after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, of course we did what we could to put everything in place for school shootings,” said Carol Birnbohm, superintendent of schools, during the April 17 board of education meeting. “We didn’t want to just train for a school crisis with just a school shooting in mind. We wanted to look at everything in a school setting.”

Medford Township Emergency Management Coordinator Lt. Jeffrey Wagner of the township police department brought the program to the attention of Birnbohm, she said. The training program is implemented nationally and presented by FEMA. Normally, the actual training is hosted in Maryland, but in this case, it was brought to the district.

LRHSD Security and Emergency Management Coordinator James Kehoe, all eight sending districts’ representatives, resource officers from Cherokee, Shawnee, Lenape and Seneca, fire, EMS, state police, buildings and grounds and transportation personnel were in attendance, according to Birnbohm. Additionally, police from Evesham and Medford townships attended the training.

“We immediately made sure we had procedures in place to address incidents similar to last fall’s events, but we also put some distance between those incidents and took a look at the big picture in emergency planning and response,” Kehoe said in a statement from LRHSD. “This was a rare chance for all attendees from different agencies who respond to school emergencies to sit down and discuss procedures and strategies to handle a wide range of hazards and threats that may affect our schools.”
According to Birnbohm, LRHSD has many of the practices already in place.

The core of the program is to establish a standardized method for schools to develop customized emergency operations plans that adhere to a national standard, Sgt. William Craney of the State Police Emergency Management Section South Region, said in the release.

“LRHSD already has a comprehensive plan in place, and by training with key emergency responders, they are well on their way to improving their response o all school hazards. A lot of the best practices are already in use in the current Lenape Regional High School District Crisis Plan,” Craney said.

“This was a great opportunity to strengthen the already excellent relationships built over years among the schools and public safety agencies while sharing new ideas to continually improve our crisis response plans,” said Wagner in the release.

The next board of education meeting is scheduled for May 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the District Administration Building located at 93 Willow Grove Road in Shamong.