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Genoa to reprise crisis-plan session

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Cari Buehler, left, assistant Genoa High School principal, Terry Mitchell, Clay Township police chief, and Brenda Murphy, Genoa Elementary School principal, have radios that will provide immediate contact with administrators campuswide and law enforcement in the event of an emergency.

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GENOA — The Genoa Area Local school district has scheduled another public session on its safety plan for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the high school auditorium.

Cari Buehler, the assistant high school principal who helped draft the emergency plan along with elementary Principal Brenda Murphy and oversees its implementation, said the meeting will be a repeat of the gathering in October that attracted only about 50 parents.

She said the decision to have it again is in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month in which 20 children and six adult staff members died.

“I’m going to show some pretty graphic videos,” she said.

“They basically illustrate that teaching children to hide in the event of a shooting like Sandy Hook’s only increases their chance of death. If we teach children to run, their chances of survival are higher. This is the Genoa schools plan we want.”

She said her presentation will include an audio recording from another scene of mass murder at a school — the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado — and a video re-enactment of the tragedy, in which two teenagers killed 13 people and themselves.

“The video had a shock value,” Ms. Buehler said, recalling the October meeting.

“People said, ‘Cari, why are you doing this?’ I said, ‘I’m showing reality.’”

Ms. Buehler said the emergency plan also could be activated during a tornado threat or a toxic spill.

Children would be removed from the school and would gather at a preordained site. The same would be true in the event of a shooter at Genoa’s central campus, which would be locked down in a radius of two miles.

“We want parents to know where the children will be,” she said, adding that the plan also was intended to be a disincentive for any potential trouble-makers. “Hopefully, this will deter them. They will know that we’re not all going to be sitting ducks.”

The emergency plan is based on the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) program that aims to increase the survival chances of students, staff, and others during a situation involving a shooter on a school campus.

Clay Township police Chief Terry Mitchell, who is to speak at the Wednesday meeting, took the ALICE instructor’s course shortly before being promoted to his position in July, 2011.

He said what he learned changed his thinking about the best way to respond to critical incidents.

“Under the old way, we just closed the school, locked the doors, turned off the lights, and waited,” Chief Mitchell explained.

In a relatively isolated western Ottawa County district such as Genoa, such a passive strategy could make casualties worse, he noted.

In an emergency situation at the Genoa schools, he continued, “you’d be lucky to get three or four officers in 10 minutes. There would be more later, but they may have to come from the other end of the county.”

He said getting the ALICE program adopted was the first innovation he wanted to attend to upon becoming chief.

Genoa was the only school system in Ottawa County to use ALICE, he said, but “other districts are looking into it. Hopefully they’ll see the light and do it also.”

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