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WCS makes haste in emergency drill

Students, faculty and staff made fast work of an emergency relocation drill last week which required the 700-student school to completely evacuate Williston Central School mid-morning, and relocate to separate spots off the school grounds.

Though Greg Marino, the district principal, said he knew the group was prepared, he wasn’t ready for how speedy it could be. Within five minutes of the fire-drill alarm going off at 8:30 a.m., the hundreds of students had successfully been evacuated from the buildings and accounted for. The point of the drill is to ready students for the event of an in-building emergency, such as a noxious fumes leak, fire or smoke incident or any firearms-related event.

“It helps us prepare for a situation that would require us to completely leave the grounds…if a decision is made that the kids can’t go back in the school, then we have to practice moving all these kids somewhere else safe.”

He anticipated the entire April 29 exercise, relocations included, to take 90 minutes to two hours, but WCS pulled it off in 70 minutes. For safety reasons, the school is not disclosing where the alternate relocation sites are, but he said all are in walking distance.

Parents had been notified weeks prior about the drill coming up, and students were told on the morning of the event what was going to happen. Marino said he thinks the preparation work by the school safety team, which is made up of volunteer teachers, staff and public safety officials, had much to do with how well the event went.

“In general, we have a really high level of professionalism that allowed this to happen and the kids are great,” he said. “It’s a good team. And people took it seriously, they really did.”

Marino also thanked the Williston Fire Department, Williston Police and Vermont State Police for their participation in the drill, and helping the school debrief afterwards.

Observer staff