School safety team plans for emergencies
BALDWIN — More than two months after the storm of Aug. 28, school and local officials are still talking about how smoothly operations went with Baldwin Community Schools being a designated Red Cross shelter — something they were prepared for thanks to the School Safety Team.
The School Safety Team, which has met monthly for years, hashes out scenarios and formulates plans for a number of situations, including weather disasters.
"The school safety team is made up of governing bodies and community leaders interested in the school such as Lake County commissioners, the school board, the sheriff's office, Yates Dial-A-Ride, Mason County Schools, West Shore Educational Service District and Lake County Emergency Manager Don Divis," said Lake County Sheriff Rich Martin. "We meet every month to discuss areas of safety. We work on critical incident response, emergencies, student and faculty safety, among other things."
Superintendent Rick Heitmeyer said the School Safety Team was instrumental in the school acting as an emergency shelter after tornado and storm damage displaced families from their homes.
"Emergency manager Don Divis made a call to our school safety manager, Dave Stanulis, and he arrived at the school in a half hour, stayed all night and made things happen," Heitmeyer said. "Having a plan in place allowed our role as a shelter to go in effect so easily. Everything flowed together in the midst of such a terrible situation. There was no selfishness. Everyone did what they needed to do to make sure everyone got through this. Having a school be a tornado shelter is a different atmosphere. I am really proud of the way things happened.
"Ten minutes of a storm caused a lot of havoc, but with meeting monthly for an hour, we were effectively able to put something in place. The more you plan the more you can be prepared when a disaster happens.
The school was open as a Red Cross shelter from Tuesday night, Aug. 28, until the following Sunday at 5 p.m. The American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Lake County Sheriff Reserves, Pleasant Plains Township Fire Department, school personnel and others were on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly.
"Our food service, under the direction of Shari McGhee, did a great job keeping people fed, and hydrated with lots of water. This is a testament to people planning. If you fail to plan, anything can happen, but if you plan, you can have some control over the situation and put things into effect," Heitmeyer added, also crediting Duane Roberts of the Baldwin College Access Center for being on hand to provide help where needed during the emergency.
Divis said having the School Safety Team in place allowed for good communication between organizations when the disaster hit.
"The majority of what the School Safety Team deals with is active shooter scenarios, but we also have had plans as the school being a shelter area in case of natural disaster. With a kitchen and showers, it is natural for schools to be a shelter place in most municipalities. Mac McCellen, who retired from the school system and was emergency manager when Homeland Security launched, provided a lot of bridgework for the school being an emergency shelter.
"The superintendent, Rick Heitmeyer, really stepped up to the plate, being new to the area. Dave Stanulis was really active with emergency management. Dave and Rick spent a lot of time here, and one or the other attended the meetings we had twice a week with department heads, the forest service, Life EMS, the road commission and other officials during the storm aftermath. We had a meeting after that event to review information, but everything went so smooth, even the American Red Cross and Salvation Army commented on how well everything went."
Stanulis said years ago, the School Safety Team formulated a plan in case of a natural disaster hitting Lake County.
"Having a plan in place so prepared us when the tornadoes hit, that it played out exactly as we practiced with having a shelter in place," he said.