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Several hundred volunteers help simulate actual emergency incident.



HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - A drill at Hillsboro Stadium Friday morning had volunteers playing 'parents' wait behind a gate before being reunited with their 'student.'Hillsboro School District, Hillsboro Police Department and Hillsboro Fire and Rescue conducted a parent reunification drill at Hillsboro Stadium Friday morning to simulate the activities that would take place in the event of a safety incident at a school.

About 400 students and 200 parent volunteers helped school district staff, the city of Hillsboro CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and fire and police personnel practice their roles in reunifying parents with their students.

Students volunteers were bused to Hillsboro Stadium to wait in the stands for their "parents" to pick them up.

Parent volunteers, each assigned the name of a student to pick up, recreated a scene of anxious parents eager to hear news of the well-being of their student.

School district staff from the administrative office worked through the proper process of reuniting parent and child, all in a scene of some confusion — with the occasional "special circumstance" thrown in.

Parent volunteer Lyrene Cooney, for example, said her scenario was that her "daughter's" name was not on the list of students to be picked up. After some moments of confusion, she was asked by a reunification volunteer if her daughter might go by a different name.

That was the case and the two were eventually reunited.

Cooney said the drill felt realistic. "I'm a mess," she said. "Can you imagine standing there for hours and not hearing from your kid?"

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Hillsboro School District staff prepare for a drill that simulated reunifying parents with their students in the event of an incident where a school had to be evacuated.The size of the drill, although large-scale, didn't simulate the evacuation of one of the district's larger schools like high schools or middle schools.

In the case of an actual incident where a school had to be evacuated, said Lt. Henry Reimann of the Hillsboro Police, police and first responders from other agencies would be on hand to assist.

"Our first job is the threat at the school," Reimann said of the police.

He expects a debriefing meeting with police, fire and school district personnel will find many things that went well as well as areas for improvement.

Hillsboro schools, police and fire and other emergency response agencies have a history of strong collaboration.

A multi-day school violence simulation in 2012 at South Meadows Middle School allowed all shifts of emergency response teams to participate. The event was filmed and has been made available for training purposes to other communities around the country.

In 2014, police conducted a small-scale active shooter drill at Liberty High School, followed by student evacuation to the stadium and reunification with parents. That drill was with fewer than 100 students.

"These drills provide us with a unique and valuable opportunity to put our plans into action," says Casey Waletich, the school district’s Executive Director of Facilities, Planning, and Operations. "We are very grateful to our partners in police and fire for helping us with the logistics and execution of these events so we can enhance the knowledge of our staff, and increase the safety of our schools and students."

Friday’s event was filmed and documented for training purposes and so that all organizations can learn and make improvements to their response plans.

Watch the April 15 Hillsboro Tribune for more information and photos.

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