McKINNEY (May 5, 2014) — Every spring, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes wreak havoc wherever they pop up, and already this year, they’ve been responsible for headlines across several states. No parent or teacher wants that announcement to go out over the school intercom – the call to shelter-in-place. But, if it ever does, we want our kids to know exactly what to do, where to go and to do it quickly.

To that end, the McKinney Independent School District, in coordination with the City of McKinney’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), is participating in America’s PrepareAthon!, a nationwide, community-based campaign for action to increase emergency preparedness and resilience through hazard-specific drills, group discussions and exercises. 

When Jennifer Little, principal of McGowen Elementary School, heard about America’s PrepareAthon! she was eager for her school to participate by conducting a severe weather drill on Wednesday, April 30 to exercise safety procedures for students and staff during extreme weather events such as high winds, hail and/or tornadoes.

“We were excited to volunteer to participate in this opportunity,” said Little. “We are blessed to be in a school district in which principals are encouraged to collaborate with other departments, and we work together to make sure that our kids are safe and to make sure that they get the best education. So, when you’re able to partner with Greg Hill [MISD Director of Safety, Security and Transportation], when you’re able to partner with the city through the resource officers, I’m proud to be able to showcase that and let everybody see the measures that we take to keep our kids safe.”

McKinney Emergency Management Coordinator Karen Adkins, Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator Randall Gurney and Emergency Management Planner Meredith Nurge were on hand along with Greg Hill and School Resource Officers Janio Lee and Maureen Messner to observe the drill.

“The children at McGowen Elementary did an amazing job of quickly moving to their pre-identified shelter-in-place locations,” said Adkins. “The kids remained in position quietly and listened to their teachers throughout the drill. The dedication of the principal, teachers and staff toward the safety of the students was obvious and showed throughout the drill.”

McKinney ISD and the City of McKinney Public Safety (Police, Fire, and Emergency Management) share a long history of working together. School Resource Officers have been engaged at MISD campuses since 1994, and while developing the MISD All-Hazards Crises Plan, stakeholders from the school district and McKinney Public Safety attended FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute course, Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools.

 

The course covered development, implementation and maintenance of a school emergency crises plan and provided the McKinney team with an understanding of how to integrate school planning across disciplines while stressing the importance of continued training and exercises to ensure a coordinated response.

To help maintain preparedness, MISD conducts two severe weather drills, monthly fire drills and two lockdown drills – one announced and one unannounced – each school year at all campuses.

“The drills allow us to exercise our plans, identify challenges that may arise and increase our readiness as a district,” said Hill.

Recently, the district acquired a radio system to facilitate communication at all campuses with McKinney Public Safety personnel during an emergency or disaster. MISD Administration can communicate with all campuses and campuses can also communicate amongst themselves. “Good communication is imperative during a crises and increases our ability to shape a positive outcome,” said Hill.

Students at McGowen Elementary in McKinney ISD shelter-in-place during a tornado drill.

Students at McGowen Elementary in McKinney ISD shelter-in-place during a tornado drill.

The partnership between MISD and the City has evolved over the years. McKinney Public Safety personnel serve along-side district staff as evaluators during lockdown drills. “This allows both District and City personnel to get to know the plan and each other prior to an actual emergency or disaster. Responses tend to be more effective and go much smoother when people know each other,” said Adkins.

America’s PrepareAthon! is an opportunity for MISD and the City of McKinney to enhance cooperation and increase preparedness. “The partnership between the City and the District is important and we take it seriously. McKinney Office of Emergency Management staff communicate with district personnel throughout the year and during actual emergency situations. In fact, the district has a place in the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) if the need arises,” said Adkins.

Hopefully, the need will never arise. But, if it does? McKinney will be ready.

The City of McKinney Office of Emergency Management contributed to this story.

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Coordinator, at 469-302-4007 or smauldin@mckinneyisd.net.

 

About McKinney ISD

One of the fastest growing school districts in Texas, the McKinney Independent School District currently enrolls more than 24,750 students in 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, four alternative schools and one early childhood education school. The mission of McKinney ISD, the champion for progressive learning throughout the diverse McKinney community, is to inspire and equip all students to explore, develop and express their unique potential as innovators, critical thinkers and collaborators through challenging, engaging and diverse learning experiences in vital partnership with the community. Visit the district's website at mckinneyisd.net.

About McKinney

McKinney, Texas, is unique by nature. As one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, McKinney has a current population exceeding 149,000. Established in 1848, the city is located 30 miles north of Dallas and is the county seat of Collin County. McKinney offers rolling hills, lush trees, a historic downtown square and unique neighborhoods and developments. The city ranks No. 2 on the Money Magazine Best Places to Live list for 2012. Visit the city’s website at mckinneytexas.org.