Camp Guernsey provides reunification shelter to school

Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire, State Public Affairs Office

Teachers and staff from Guernsey/Sunrise School were introduced to a new emergency operations procedure developed in partnership with Camp Guernsey, the school board and local law enforcement.

The plan has been in discussion since last summer, and incrementally honed leading to the Aug. 24 tabletop presentation at the camp’s Simulation Center, the site that will house the students and staff in the event of an emergency at the school.

Maj. Tyler Schiele, the military training facility’s public works officer, and a school board member, proposed to school district Superintendent Mike Beard that the camp might be a suitable reunification site in the event of an emergency, like an active shooter.

From there, Schiele and Beard attended a conference at Columbine High School, in Colorado, that featured school administrators, law enforcement, criminal justice and mental health professionals, from around the country, who were involved in the response and recovery to school violence and other emergency events.

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At the heart of the conference was the nationally recognized Standard Reunification Method and the Standard Response Protocol that simplifies and standardizes language used in emergency response. In that premise four specific words and actions are to be used during an incident; lockout, lockdown, evacuate and shelter.

Schiele said prior to the conference, the partnership was simply a good idea.

“I thought we should have an emergency plan, but we just didn’t have a process until we learned the SRP standards,” Schiele explained to the audience of about 50 teachers, staff and administrators. “The conference was one of the hardest weeks I’ve had, hearing from the families and staff involved in school shootings, but we came away with a process and a shared language, we can all understand.”

With a process in hand, the ball got rolling with the school district and the military department to produce the memorandum of understanding the teachers were briefed on at the Camp Guernsey meeting, on the eve of the first day of school.

Guernsey/Sunrise Principal Glen Suppes outlined many of the strategies specific to his school and staff. Included were assigned roles, and chains of command common to an incident command center. Communications processes, with language now common to camp staff, teachers and law enforcement were outlined, as were routes to the Simulation Center via foot or bus.

“Someone’s going to have to take charge if we’re not here, so that’s why we’re all here today. You’re the ones who will have to make decisions. It’s a lot of responsibility, but someone’s going to have to call the fire desk and let them know we’re coming. Or you may not have time to wait for the school buses to fire up, so you may need to start walking over here,” Suppes said. “This is our show. The Guard is just providing the house to do it in.”

Suppes’ plan also outlined accountability methods for all students and staff, specific rooms in the Sim Center where students will be sheltered, have quiet spaces and command areas. As well, when the time comes for parents to pick up their children, a process for that reunification is documented.

He also showed the contents of kits, placed in every classroom, containing things such as tissues, plastic megaphones, first aid supplies, pens and paper.

“They’ll be ready to grab and go, and provide all the bare bones necessities for a successful reunification,” the principal said.

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