Story by Karen Iwamoto on 10/06/2017FORT SHAFTER School's back in session. That means new friends and new lessons.
For the five schools located on U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii properties, it also means mandated safety drills aimed at preparing students and staff for possible emergencies.
Major General William R. Shafter Elementary School, here, was first this school year to undertake a safety evacuation drill, on Sept. 27.
"The purpose of these drills are so students are practiced, and it becomes like a routine to them," said Shafter Elementary Principal Alison Higa. "So, when something happens, they won't be afraid; they won't panic. Everyone will know what to do and how to do it and where to go to be safe."
Through their paces
The mock emergency scenario involved a bomb threat to the campus, and all of the school's approximately 521 students, staff and administrators walked about a third of a mile to the Fort Shafter gym. There, everyone was accounted for before returning to the campus. The drill took 41 minutes to complete.
The evacuation of students from the school caused some traffic delays and the temporary closure of the intersection at Funston and Wisser roads.
Representatives from USAG-HI's Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization & Security; the Directorate of Emergency Services and Military Police; as well as representatives from the Hawaii State Department of Education's Safety Office; Safety, Security and Emergency Preparation Branch; and the military School Liaison Office were there to assist school officials and assess the drill.
One challenge facing the school is the high turnover rate of its students, Higa said. Because military families move frequently, the school must regularly teach new students the school's safety evacuation policies.
She said she relies on the experience of her staff to help ensure things go smoothly.
USAG-HI and HIDOE officials were mostly complimentary about the school's performance, noting that the 41-minute time from the start to the finish of the drill was exemplary, and all of the students seemed to be in sync and moving smoothly.
In the future, officials said they would work on ways to boost safety while directing traffic along the evacuation route.
Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School on Schofield Barracks will be the next school to participate in a mandatory emergency drill on Oct. 25, followed by Wheeler Elementary and Middle schools on Wheeler Army Airfield, and finally Solomon Elementary School on Schofield Barracks.