School will tweak its emergency plan
Cranberry Eagle
Written by:
February 20, 2013

ADAMS TWP — Mars High School officials, in conjunction with police, last Monday enacted the school district’s emergency operations procedure during the bomb threat, then met to discuss the plan’s efficiency and potential adjustments to be made.

Principal Todd Kolson said Thursday that teachers and students did an excellent job evacuating the school, even though a full evacuation drill had never been practiced.

Kolson said the decision whether to evacuate or have students remain in the school is based on factors related to the threat. He said that on Feb. 11, he, police officers and Superintendent William Pettigrew decided a complete evacuation of the high school was in order.

“I think everyone did a great job,” Kolson said. “No one panicked, even though they didn’t know what was going on.”

He said once the high school’s 1,000-plus students were safely across Route 228 in the middle school, he told the curious ninth- through 12th-graders of the situation. Kolson also praised middle school principal Rich Cornell, who took the necessary actions to make way for the high school students.

“The middle school administration was great,” Kolson said. “They worked very well with the high school.”

Kolson said Adams, Middlesex and Mars police responded immediately to secure the campus, which he attributed to the good working relationship the district has with them.

Adams Township Police Chief Bill Westerman said about eight officers from the police agencies responded Feb. 11 just after lunch.

He said after assessing the situation, police set up a command post for efficient communication between police agencies.

He said the emergency operation procedure was initiated successfully, but needs tweaking.

“We’ve got some bugs that need to be worked out, but all in all, it went well,” Westerman said. “Luckily, there was no bomb.”

Westerman would not share the full police plan in such a situation, but he did say an Adams detective and a school administrator worked to make an arrest Feb. 12 of a female high school student for the bomb threat.

He would only say that her parents brought her to the police station to face charges.

At the Feb. 12 school board meeting, board President Dayle Ferguson called the event “a brief but intense window of time” in which staff were poised and professional, and students responded maturely.

“It was an orderly evacuation in a short amount of time, and everyone did a very, very good job,” Ferguson said.

Pettigrew thanked the support staff, custodians, bus drivers and secretaries for their efforts during the evacuation and at dismissal from the middle school.

“And the police need a salute because they did an excellent job,” Pettigrew said.

He apologized to parents who were upset that the automated call system, which notifies thousands of parents of a situation at once, was not used for the bomb threat. Pettigrew said the system was not used because a rush of parents to the high school to pick up their children, plus the regular traffic at school dismissal time would have created “mayhem” on Route 228.

“Our first and foremost concern was the students and employees,” Pettigrew said.

Kolson said a post crisis meeting was held on Thursday that included all the key figures involved in the threat on Feb. 11.

“We looked at the areas that need improvement,” he said.