It may look like a full-scale disaster is taking place at Napoleon Junior/Senior High School Tuesday, but residents and parents are being assured it is a planned emergency drill.
Napoleon Area City Schools and several local emergency response agencies will be running the drill from 8:30-11 a.m.
“They have to do something every year, and this year they have to do a full-scale (drill),” said Henry County Emergency Agency (EMA) Deputy Director Nick Nye.
He added it worked out well because the EMA has to conduct its own drills annually.
“We have to do exercises every year too, and there’s certain chemicals we can exercise on, and we’re lucky enough Napoleon schools has a natatorium and obviously they have to use chlorine for the pool and that’s on the list,” Nye said.
“In our planning process, we considered anything that could happen on NAS grounds — everything from a power outage to a gas leak to an armed intruder,” said Napoleon Area City Schools Superintendent Erik Belcher.
School officials stressed there will be no actual chemicals used during the drill, but students and staff will be evacuated as if there had been an actual leak.
That evacuation will include relocating approximately 900 people from the Napoleon Jr./Sr. High School to St. Paul Lutheran School.
“The plan is we’re going to close down Clairmont Avenue and march the kids down the street,” Nye said.
A simulated reunification with parents at St. Paul’s will also be part of the drill.
He added a section of Glenwood Avenue will also be closed. In addition, streets around the high school campus will also be restricted, as will the building itself.
There will also be a significant emergency response presence during the drill, including fire, police and sheriff.
Nye said students and staff at the elementary building will shelter in place but will not be evacuated.
He also said the Napoleon Fire Department will have its smoke machine in use to simulate a chemical cloud from the spill.
Nye admits the timeline will be a tight one, but that is necessary to not completely interrupt the entire school day.
“We’re talking about an hour and a half to mitigate a simulated spill,” Nye said. “The hard part is getting those kids to St. Paul’s, and then getting them back. We’ve never simulated an evacuation to this degree before.”
“What is most important is that the procedures and skills needed to deal with any emergency are transferable to the situation at hand, and that members of the emergency response teams are flexible and adaptable as a crisis involves,” Belcher said