Despite many learning virtually, Ohio Emergency Management focused on preparing schools for threats

Ohio EMA using virtual technology to prepare for school threats.jpg
Posted at 8:09 PM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-15 20:09:10-04

Even during the coronavirus pandemic – while many schools and families are turning to virtual learning – the Ohio Emergency Management Agency said now is the time to prepare for potential threats. A new, virtual training toolkit is helping keep everyone on guard.

Active shooters, severe weather and hazardous materials are just some of the threats Ohio EMA training and exercise supervisor David Nunley prepares for every day.

“It’s a scenario that nobody wants to believe can be real but unfortunately is,” he said.

Nunley has been putting together tabletop exercise toolkits – covering things like threats at malls, colleges or houses of worship – for the past few years. New this year are two kits for K-12 schools that cover hazardous materials and active aggressors.

“At some point, hopefully, we’re going to be back in the classrooms, and we don’t want to just go back in the classrooms unprepared with our guard down,” he said.

The training kits can be customized school to school. The Ohio EMA wants to make it simple and easy for school districts to come up with the best emergency response plans for them.

“There’s so many what ifs – and every scenario is always going to be different,” Nunley said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

He said one of the good things about the toolkits is how easily they translate to a digital learning format. Even though some families and schools are not meeting in-person yet, they still need to be ready.

“I think it’s so important that we understand just because COVID’s here the threats don’t go away – and that’s the bottom line,” Nunley said.

The virtual sessions walk through potential scenarios and help schools create a step-by-step plan for responding to active threats, keeping the school community safe and helping students, staff and families cope afterward.

The toolkits are designed to bring together administrators, teachers and staff with the different emergency responders in the area, but he said schools could include older students if they decide the content is age appropriate.