Letters To The Editor

Your Oppinions

Thoughts On Issues Relating To Carroll County

April 03, 2005

A flawed plan for evacuation

The Carroll County School Board released its "new" evacuation plan for disabled children in multi-storied school buildings. The much-ballyhooed change in the policy seems to have been confined to font and margins. (Oh, and something silly they call "horizontal" evacuation).

Get this - if one stairwell becomes involved in a fire, or the smoke reaches lethal levels, the vulnerable children, those in wheelchairs, will be led through the flames to another stairwell. Then the children await arrival of emergency personnel.

In the worst possible case, if all stairwells are engulfed, a designated staff person carries the child/children to safety, without the benefit of inexpensive evacuation equipment. (Nevermind that high schoolers frequently outweigh the staff assigned for their safety.)

Mr. Seamon, principal at Westminster High School, assured us that the stairwells that our children were left in could not be involved in a conflagration because of fire code standards adopted after the construction of the building.

If this were not misinformation when you insisted it was true, what need have we for horizontal evacuation? What about shootings and bombs - not so farfetched? Are our children and the staff who attend them safer in the building? In either case, emergency personnel will not be allowed in the building initially to get our children out.

Principal Seamon, Dr. Ecker, who are you kidding here? You chose to do what was expedient rather than what was morally right.

You mean to leave our children inside buildings that have been evacuated. If your child, why not mine?

When you held your last press conference, you insisted that cost would not be an issue when it came to the safety of our children.

Yet you have decided against the acquisition of equipment that staff could use to safely evacuate children in wheelchairs. Some of these devices cost as little as $900. Will this bankrupt the county?

What about the staff who are designated to remain in harm's way to accompany handicapped children in these stairwells?

What of their spouses, and parents, and children? Are they not outraged that it is their loved one's responsibility to remain in the building during an emergency?

If the people and government of Carroll County do not react to safeguard the lives of school children and staff, if the cost of $900 per stairwell is a cost too high, then it is not monetary but moral bankruptcy we should fear.

Tom Freeze

Bel Air (Editor's note: Mr. Freeze is the father of Jeremy Freeze, a Westminster High School student who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.)

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