Clinton City and Sampson County Schools failed to meet a deadline to submit building blueprints to state officials for emergency purposes. But leaders from both educational systems made it known that safety has always been a priority.
According to reports, the local districts were two of more than 30 that missed a June 1 deadline to submit digital information and detailed schematics to help protect public schools from threats such as fires, weather incidents and attackers. Legislation passed last summer required districts to submit data to local emergency personnel and North Carolina Emergency Management.
Terrace Miller, assistant superintendent for Clinton City Schools, said the information was submitted about two weeks ago after they found out the time to do so passed. She said the information was always on hand and, earlier during the school year, city school officials met with local emergency responders.
“We invited all of these folks to come into our schools for safety meetings,” Miller said. “They met with us, along with our resource officers to look at our safe school plan.”
The work consisted of looking at floor plans as well as ways to deal with emergency situations.
“They gave us suggestions about how we can improve it or make suggestions about things we can probably change,” Miller said.
During tours, Miller said emergency personnel were shown different aspects of buildings such as valves, fire extinguishers and exits, to become familiar with buildings before an emergency occurred. The resource officer also invited members of the Clinton Police Department to walk through the building.
Miller alluded to how there was confusion about sending the information to the proper authority. She said details were provided to emergency personnel back in October.
“Our local folks had access to this information because it had been provided to them at that time,” Miller said regarding the data. “This is not anything new to us, we’ve been working on this for a while, even before the state required it to be submitted to them. The state didn’t have it, but our local people did.”
Finance Director Clyde Locklear and Miller reiterated how they have worked with local people who would respond to an emergency or disaster. They also indicated that they are cooperating with state leaders, but said local crews are going to be the first on the scene if something was to occur.
“The truth of the matter is that if we are in an emergency we’re calling our local police, sheriff, fire and rescue folks,” Miller said. “Those are the ones who need that information that we tried to provide, even before this was a requirement.”
Information regarding blueprints was submitted to emergency personnel on flash drive for emergency purposes.
“They’ve been in the buildings before, they know what it’s like,” Locklear said.
Like the city school system, Eric Bracy, superintendent for Sampson County, said requirements to provide floor plans have been met. Following a report from WRAL, Bracy said confirmation was sent to the proper authorities before a report was released to the public.
“Sampson County Schools collaborated with the Office of Emergency Management and the Register of Deeds Office to collect the plans for all our schools,” Bracy said. “We took this process to a unique level by involving student interns who assisted in the research of the plans. This was a complex project and an important one.”
Lou Nelon, executive director of Auxiliary Services for Sampson County Schools, said the district worked with local officials during quarterly safety meetings. He also indicated how a recent internship involved making better blueprint copies, although the proper information was already submitted to the state.
“We’re going to keep doing that,” Nelon said about providing better schematics.
Bracy said construction plans for some of our schools date back to the 1940s and involve multiple additions and renovations.
“School safety is front and center on our minds at all times,” Bracy said. “We are fortunate to have a strong working relationship with law enforcement and are constantly engaged in safety training and activities.”
Mike Anderson, former school resource officer and now deputy director for the Center for Safer Schools, stated that having the details can be the difference between life and death.
“Before first responders even arrive on scene, they will be able to see what type of structure they are responding to, the layout and how to maneuver around the school quicker,” Anderson stated in a news release. “That allows emergency workers to better formulate and coordinate response plans, saving precious minutes.”
The N.C. Department of Public Safety reported that gathering the blueprints for the state’s school was “no small feat.” Receiving information from newer schools was easy since the blueprints can be mailed electronically, however the older buildings had basic floor plans posted on the wall for emergencies, which required additional work.
“We’ve had tremendous cooperation from each county and every school system,” stated NCEM Assistant Director John Dorman in a news release. “This is no small project and it takes time.”
Dorman said some counties did not have resources to meet the deadline. But 92 percent of all schools submitted data by the end of July.
“We’ve been talking with every school system in the state at every step of the way and they have been working all along to submit data as quickly as possible,” Dorman said. “We anticipate the remaining plans will be in hand by late August.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.