Norwin employees regularly undergo training on how to deal with emergencies that range from severe weather to having an armed intruder in a school building. But the confusion and stress that accompany an actual incident easily could result in employees forgetting crucial details of the response plan.
Saying that safety is the district’s highest priority, Superintendent William Kerr said Norwin is seeking a $25,000 state grant to help pay for training and other services that focus on boosting security measures.
“Schools regularly have fire drills, so teachers are likely to know exactly what they have to do if there’s a fire,” said Gary Sigrist, a private consultant who assists Norwin with its emergency planning. “But there are many teachers who will go through their entire career and never have to deal with something like a suicide, a food contamination or a building collapse. So we’re trying to make sure they have a resource at their fingertips during a variety of emergencies.”
Norwin officials had considered placing an emergency response “flip chart” in each classroom to provide a quick resource, but the cost is prohibitive, according to assistant high school principal Joseph Shigle, who is the district’s emergency response coordinator.
“As we began delving into using the flip charts we started looking at the cost factor, which would probably be in excess of $10,000 to print it for everyone,” he said. “And obviously, as soon as you make a change to the charts, they become outdated.”
To avoid the cost and the potential obsolescence of using printed charts, the district is considering digitizing such a resource so it can be downloaded onto a computer, tablet or smart phone.
“Besides the cost of printing the charts, having them in a classroom means that in the midst of an emergency when a teacher is focusing on evacuating their students, they also have to remember to take the chart with them in case they need to review the procedures they should be following,” Sigrist said. “They’re not as likely to forget to take their telephone with them as they leave.”
Once the information is downloaded to a device, accessing it wouldn’t require an internet or cellular telephone connection, Sigrist said.
Sigrist estimates that it would cost Norwin about $2,000 to supply its staff with electronic versions of the emergency response flip chart that can easily be updated as information changes.
Gene Komondor, the emergency management coordinator for North Huntingdon, said electronic response plans would supplement the emergency training sessions the district conducts throughout the year.
In addition to operational exercises such as the day-long event in early June in which police officers and medical personnel responded to a mock shooting incident at Norwin High School, the district holds regular “tabletop” exercises to evaluate the district’s emergency response plans and procedures.