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Letter to the Editor

EMA Director defends emergency plans in bomb threats
web posted April 13, 2007

Dear Editor,

I read with a great deal of disappointment the anonymous email in your Wandering Minds section regarding how the recent bomb threat was handled by Merriwether Elementary and Middle Schools. I got the impression that inconvenience was more of an issue than the security of their children. Having played an integral part in the preparation and implementation of the school systems Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for this and other such incidents I can assure you that their operations plan is sound. The key issue in any school emergency is the safety of our children and faculty. To accomplish that goal there have been numerous table top drills, actual drills, planning sessions, critiques, work sessions and consultants including FBI agents and law enforcements agencies.  The operations plan is sound and it works. It is constantly being reviewed and corrected as needed.

One anonymous writer states that their child could not be picked up by a sibling but rather had to be picked up by the parent.  Well of course!  Before a child can be sent home the school goes to great lengths to be sure the child is in the proper hands and the parent is aware of the childs whereabouts.  Suppose there was no accountability standard?  I can assure you that this parent would be the first to cry foul. 

Regarding the accusation that teachers had pocketbooks but no check off-sheets for children;  I was on scene and saw no such thing.  What I did see was students in a safe location under constant supervision by several teachers and staff.  I saw an orderly evacuation, with no injuries.  I saw a calm, professional manner by all of the staff.

The writer goes on to say that their child had asthma and could not get to her inhaler if she needed it and the weather was cold.  As soon as we were notified of the bomb threat Edgefield County EMS dispatched two ambulances with full paramedic crews to the scene in the event that there was a medical situation.  Merriwether Fire Department was also on the scene with  trained first responders and vehicles. They did a wonderful job.  I personally assisted on a call and it took us less than three minutes to get to a child and check her out.  No less than four EMT's were on the scene with me.  A little chill is a small price to pay for a child's safety. 

In closing let me point out that in any emergency situation where large numbers of people are involved it is always going to be chaotic.  To some it will appear to be chaos.  There is a difference.  Ever been to a sports event and had to work your way through the crowds to your seat?  The sense of urgency that pervades the scene is due to the time sensitive nature of the emergency.  On one hand people must be evacuated quickly but calmly and on the other emergency responders must go into harms way to eliminate the danger or determine the lack thereof.  

I will not hide behind the cloak of anonymity but rather proudly sign my name to this letter. It is an honor to be associated with faculty and staff that put our children first above themselves and the men and women of all branches of emergency services in  our county who constantly strive to make this a safer place to live.

Mike Casey,
Director: Edgefield County Emergency Management Agency

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