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Newtown Tragedy Prompts Local School Safety Talk

aisne conferenceDEERFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary left us with a lot of questions about school safety.

Teachers at independent schools across Western Mass met in Deerfield Monday to discuss ways they can better prepare for the worst.

“These triggering events have one important positive aspect, which is to have everybody looking at their plans and training once more to make sure that they’re right and that’s a good thing,” says Bo Mitchell, an expert in emergency preparedness and president of 911 Consulting.

The Association of Independent Schools in New England often schedules speakers, but this is the first time an emergency response expert has come to talk with teachers in Western Mass.

Mitchell says Monday’s talk is about more than just preparing for an active shooter in a school.

“They overlook the chemical truck that can spill in front of their door — on campus or off campus, they overlook bad weather like tornadoes, they overlook — or don’t plan sufficiently enough — for a lot of things,” says Mitchell.

“Every school already has an emergency plan in place, what we’re trying to do here is raise consciousness about other possibilities — other things they may not have thought about,” says Steve Clem, executive director of AISNE.

Experts stress that emergency planning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When putting a plan in place, it’s important to communicate with local responders to keep students safe.

“If you’re planning in a vacuum without the people who are going to come through the door when the time comes, you’re making a mistake,” says Mitchell. “So you need to plan, you need to train, you need to exercise with the local police and fire.”

He adds, “In every jurisdiction in the United States, that’s recommended.”

AISNE also held a similar conference in Eastern Massachusetts last week.