Shootings added to list of county schools' drills

For the first time, school shootings will receive equal billing with earthquakes, fires and terrorist attacks during San Mateo County’s disaster preparedness day.

County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier said the April 16 massacre at Virginia Tech highlighted the need to include the county’s school safety measures in the Sept. 29 disaster preparedness day event.

Lt. Randy Randleman, director of the Office of Emergency Services for San Mateo County, said the event is a chance for parents to explore what their children’s schools are doing to prepare for something as serious as a shooting or as mundane as a gas leak.

“When you take your kids to school for the first time, the last thing you ask is ‘do you have an emergency plan?’” Randleman said. “Enrollment is confusing enough.”

An administrator from Woodside High School is also scheduled to speak at the free event.

The goal of the day is to instruct people on how to build a disaster plan and emergency kit in case of unforeseen situations ranging from floods to terrorist attacks.

“Whatever the emergency, the preparation is much the same,” Tissier said. “If the unexpected happened, the police response probably won’t be immediate. People might have to rely on themselves for a week or more.”

Also for the first time in the event’s three-year history, people will be able to observe the command center of a live, Bay Area-wide SWAT team drill. The drill itself, in which SWAT team members simulate terrorist acts and hostage situations in both urban and rural areas, will be broadcast live at the event.

Disaster day comes at a time when local emergency officials are preparing to roll out their Community Alert System countywide. The system has been in place for about a year, but is mainly used by Burlingame and Hillsborough, Randleman said.

The Community Alert System sends text messages and e-mails about local emergencies, natural disasters and major traffic incidents.

Randleman said the system is also something he’d like to implement on school campuses to promote consistency in safety procedures.

Virginia Tech officials were harshly criticized in the wake of the attack on their campus for waiting more than two hours after the first shooting to alert students via e-mail.

The third annual San Mateo County Disaster Preparedness Day will be held Sept. 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the San Mateo County Event Center, 2495 South Delaware St., in San Mateo.

tbarak@examiner.com

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