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MAGNA — Too often the news of the day shows parents desperately racing to a school to find out whether their child has been hurt in a shooting or some other emergency. The Granite School District practiced for those situations Wednesday with its largest reunification drill to date.
The drill included nearly all school staff and several first-responder agencies. They ran the drill at Lake Ridge Elementary School where parents were notified to come pick up their kids due to an emergency. Fortunately, they knew it was a drill.
The district wants to take some of the chaos out of the response. "In any emergency, our number one priority is to keep those kids safe," said Roger Brooks, emergency manager for the school district.
It could be a gas leak, an earthquake, or even an active shooter. The drill covers what happens when the emergency or the threat is already over.
"In an emergency, if it's the first time you've done anything it never will go well," Brooks said. "So it's important to allow the teachers and allow the staff members to practice what our plan is in place so they have an understanding how it works."
Reunification is the process by which parents and guardians are notified to pick up their students from school, or a designated evacuation site, due to an emergency that prevents normal dismissal. In the event of a real emergency, these children would have been evacuated to a nearby church, and parents would be notified to pick them up.
"Chaos is going to happen in any emergency, our goal is to reduce some of that and reduce some of the stress on the parents by having a really good plan in place," Brooks said.
Including parents in the plan lets them know the plan will work to help keep their kids safe. "Each situation is unique and dynamic," said Ben Horsley, a district spokesman.
Emergencies take a lot of patience on the part of the parents. Horsley said the school needs parents to wait for a notification before they head to the pickup location. "These reunification drills are designed to make sure that we are actually giving the child over once they are safe and secure to the right people and the right individuals. It's why we need to practice this," Horsley said.
"If there are any adjustments that need to be done they will be found out in a drill like this," said the emergency manager.
This drill should help all of the school staff involved and the parents evaluate the reunification process and make improvements.