A representative of a North Dakota organization that advises schools on security and disaster preparedness spoke at a conference on children’s safety in Des Moines Thursday. Marv Earhardt works for the North Dakota LEAD Center, and says schools need to take another look at their disaster plans. He says the events that occurred in Russia recently gives all of us an opportunity to be prepared for such things. Several hundred Russian school children were killed after terrorists took over the school. Earhardt says we can’t rule out such things happening — even in the midwest. He says there was a time when most people considered such a thing impossible, but after 9-11 we discovered it is possible. While he says it could happen anywhere, he thinks it’s more likely to happen in a large population center. He says we also need to be prepared for a domestic terrorist – a disgruntled parent or student. Earhardt says the Columbine school shootings in Colorado did cause most schools to look at their disaster plans. He says at that time they discovered that many schools had just the bare minimum of plans and they mostly centered on disasters such as tornadoes and fires and didn’t address acts of violence. Earhardt says small rural communities face some dangers that big schools don’t — such as accidents with farm chemicals. He says they had an incident in North Dakota where an railcar loaded with anhydrous ammonia derailed. He says it could have been a major disaster, but thanks to a good plan, and some luck, a major disaster was averted. Earhardt says he recommends schools periodically review their plan and let people know what’s in it and what to do. He says unless people know what to do in a disaster, they’ll respond as best they know how given their level of training. He says if they’ve had not training, even if there’s a good plan, often times there will be panic. He says practice and planning is the antidote. Earhardt spoke at a child safety conference at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines.
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