State fair accident pushes CHS to evaluate its emergency plans

Students+exit+the+building+during+a+fire+drill+on+Aug.+30.+Indiana+requires+schools+to+have+at+least+one+tornado+drill+and+one+man-made+occurrence+drill+per+semester+in+addition+to+five+fire+drills+during+the+school+year.+HENRY+ZHU+%2F+PHOTO

Students exit the building during a fire drill on Aug. 30. Indiana requires schools to have at least one tornado drill and one man-made occurrence drill per semester in addition to five fire drills during the school year. HENRY ZHU / PHOTO

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The state fair incident was a disaster that shook the very foundations of whole country, but even more it affected Hoosiers who have been going to the fair for years. It served as a wake-up call for some organizations to promote safety in all kinds of incidents. Carmel is one of these organizations. Just days after the incident, some administrators and directors conducted a meeting to address Carmel’s emergency policies.

Athletics Director Jim Inskeep was one of the administrators at the meeting, and he also had a meeting with a representative of the city police. What they found overall, according to Inskeep, is that this school’s emergency plans are effective.

“We made two minor adjustments to communication during and following a situation but stand firm on the plan we currently have in place,” Inskeep said.

Students exit the building during a fire drill on Aug. 30. Indiana requires schools to have at least one tornado drill and one man-made occurrence drill per semester in addition to five fire drills during the school year. HENRY ZHU / PHOTO

Though this meeting may have been provoked by the state fair incident, administrators normally have a meeting concerning emergency policy at least once a year. Typically, these meetings are at the beginning of the school year.

According to school resource officer Phillip Hobson, almost every large public event has an incident action plan, which is based off of a rough outline of emergency protocols, commonly referred to as the National Incident Management System (NIMS). This system originated in the years after 9/11 by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) under Homeland Security.

FEMA created this set of basic guidelines for incidents that can be fitted into all kinds of forms and natures of emergencies. As a result, local law enforcement agencies  can change and alter these guidelines according to specific emergencies.

Hobson said that the incidents that covered by this are very broad. “The plan can cover anything from a storm, a fire and crowd control.”

The way emergency action plans work is that the police would get reports, for example, of a severe storm or tornado through broadcasts or the National Weather Service. The athletics director and the local police then deliberate on the possible danger of the storm hitting the stadium. If that danger is imminent, then the guidelines of the emergency action plan take immediate effect. The plan primarily deals with how local police utilize the resources they have available.

According to Hobson, “NIMS is the way you manage roles, language, and different emergency departments. A lot of it is resource management, allocating resources for different scenarios.”

Senior Class President Hannah Larson is one of many Hoosiers who was deeply affected by the stage collapse that occurred at the state fair.

However, Larson said she does see a silver lining to the tragic incident. “It was so special to see all these people helping each other at the fair, so many medically-trained people offered their services right then and there. It is super cool to see everyone pull together in a tragedy and not apart.”

Larson said that she believes CHS does a competent job of both informing and enforcing fire and tornado drills so the students know what actions to take in these given instances.

“I believe that the policy is as good as it can be with more than 4,000 students. It is efficient and does the best that it can to keep everyone safe,” she said.

Hobson said he feels confident in the Carmel police force’s ability to handle emergencies, as they have had these plans in place for years to prepare for such events.

Inskeep said, ultimately, it is important for students to stay alert in the event of an emergency.

“In the event of a disaster, it is important to stay calm and take direction from local rescue workers and other personnel trained specifically for such an occurrence,” Inskeep said. “I am confident we would be able to enact our plan.”

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