School Board studies new High-Quality Emergency Operations Plan

Some students and staff can see the snow capped peak of Mount Rainier right outside their classroom windows. It’s a beautiful sight on a sunny day, but one that Bethel Risk Manager Lauren Lasater sees a bit differently.

“That’s an active volcano outside our windows,” she said. “We sit on a fault line, and we have severe weather, like we saw just a few weeks ago, with the heavy snowfall. All that, along with man-made threats, should give us pause.”

Bethel has always had plans in place for disasters of many kinds, but there has never been a comprehensive guide for principals and district leaders to utilize if the worst does happen.

That’s why Lasater worked alongside contractor John Thomson of J. Henry Enterprise, Inc. to create the district’s first ever High-Quality Emergency Operations Plan.

It’s a huge document, more than 400 pages, but it’s not meant to be memorized.

“This is like your owners manual in your car,” said Thompson. “You don’t need to look at it until you need to change the headlight.”

The plan includes threat assessments, clear and concise directions for actions to take, forms and more — anything district leaders might need including the district’s Hazard Mitigation Plan and a Continuity of Operations plan, which was recently required by OSPI.

In creating the document, Lasater and Thompson worked with the Pierce county Sheriff’s Department, local first responders and our SROs to incorporate their expertise into the document, as well as information from OSPI and the district’s existing policies and procedures.

The School Board is currently reviewing the document, and the goal is to have a final draft by August, so Lasater and Thompson can work with principals individually before finalizing the plan in 2020.

After that, the document will then be updated every two years to give district officials opportunities to refine the document.

“Even ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ was unheard of ten years ago,” said Thompson. “This will help us make sure it’s kept up-to-date.”