County schools take measures to prepare for terror attacks

March 19, 2003|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County school officials will send letters home with students today informing parents of measures schools will take in the event of a terrorist attack.

A systemwide plan, developed with county emergency medical services workers, instructs every school to designate an area with secure doors and few windows as a shelter.

In the event of a chemical attack, principals, teachers and custodians will be expected to shepherd students into shelters, close windows, shut down air conditioners and ventilation systems and lock the building.

"Classrooms with a lot of windows, especially the old kind that open out, they would be the least desirable," said J. Mark Black, the schools' supervisor of investigations, who has been assigned full time to handle school security. "The hallway would be better. ... A media center with no windows, that would be even better."

The plan also instructs school staff to "use any means available to seal off the facility from the outside environment."

Black, a colonel in the Army Reserves, said the plan was designed as a precaution.

"We have no indication that any of our schools would be in a direct threat," Black said. "Our goal here was simply to protect children."

The administration plans to distribute emergency supplies to schools, including cell phones, bullhorns, whistles, flashlights and battery-operated radios.

Schools will be responsible for stocking other items, such as student rosters, two-way radios, students' prescription medicines and emergency response plans.

Parents are urged not to pick up their children in an attack, but would be accommodated if they wished to, Black said.

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