Staff, first responders conduct emergency preparedness exercise

West Jefferson Hills School District  |  Posted on

Nearly 40 WJH principals, school police/resource officers, administration and local first responders participated in the emergency preparedness exercise

West Jefferson Hills (WJH)School District principals, school police/resource officers, administration and local first responders recently participated in a safety exercise that will help all participants be better prepared when an emergency event at a district location occurs.

The tabletop exercise included approximately 40 participants and was held at Thomas Jefferson High School (TJHS). The exercise was led by Aaron Skrbin, Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s director of safety and security, and Todd Plunkett, chief of Baldwin Emergency Medical Service (EMS).

First responder units participating with WJH staff included: Jefferson Hills Police and Fire, Pleasant Hills Police and Fire, Elizabeth Police, Baldwin EMS and SE Regional EMS. Most of the first responders were scattered amongst the tables of the five district schools, while others were stationed at a central command post, which would be established within the district should an emergency event occur.

The principal at each school was given a different set of events and challenges they faced during the emergency. They had to assess the situation and determine the priority actions, collaborate with the district, first responders and local authorities, using the district’s Emergency Operations Plan as a guide.

Skrbin stressed that timely internal and external communication between the five schools, district and local authorities was critical, with all public communications emanating from the district in coordination with Allegheny County EMA and local authorities.

“I thought that the exercise went extremely well,” Skrbin stated. “This exercise was a great way to build and strengthen relationships between school administrators and first responders. The West Jefferson Hills administration has made a commitment to place safety and security as a priority. Training opportunities such as this one are evidence of that commitment. The response from the police, fire and EMS agencies that serve WJHSD was tremendous; I have rarely seen a situation where all those agencies and a school district work so closely together on a consistent basis.”

“I heard a lot of problem-solving going on,” Plunkett told the group as the exercise concluded. “You had those (varied) conversations, which was great. For me, it’s about the relationships you’ve made prior to the incident. When there’s an emergency, you don’t want to be meeting someone who is local for the first time, that’s why having an exercise like this is so important. I was very excited that we all had a chance to work together and collaborate.”

Each school and district staff made notes during the exercise, which will be part of an after-action report with recommendations for the district.

“Working with the new Jefferson Hills Police Chief (Ron Dziezgowski Jr.) and other local first responders allowed the high school administration team to think differently during the emergency exercise,” said Pete Murphy, TJHS principal. “The years of training and practical experience held by our first responders is reassuring and greatly appreciated. The Thomas Jefferson High School administration looks forward to future collaborations and safety preparation with our local police, fire and EMS professionals.”