Thanks to a federal grant, classrooms in Merced Union High School District schools soon will have first-aid kits with vital materials for use in the event of a large-scale emergency or disaster.
With campuses in Merced, Atwater and Livingston, the district will put in place about 740 kits through a $165,000 Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
These kits will contain a number of things besides conventional bandages and antiseptics.
Kelly Bentz, the district's program administrator for child welfare, attendance and safety, said the kits will include a whistle, flashlight and batteries, a bright yellow reflective vest for the teacher,j and a clipboard with the names of all students.
Through the REMS grant, 60 district employees have completed incident command systems training, which included about 30 leadership students at all five campuses, according to Victoria Boyington, REMS project director.
Each school site has participated in safety weeks, in coordination with local firefighters, police officers and emergency responders. This year, the American Red Cross has been involved in emergency preparation drills.
The REMS kits have been assembled by adult transition students at the district's warehouse at the Castle Commerce Center and will be in place in classrooms and offices at each campus by the second week of November, Boyington said.
The kits will be equipped with flip charts that detail how to respond to emergencies, including evacuation procedures. The materials were supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Bentz believes the high school district is ahead of the game compared with other U.S. school districts. She said a top district priority is keeping students safe, particularly in emergencies.
All school employees become emergency service workers during declared emergencies and are required by law to heed commands from first-responders, Bentz said. Emergencies could include fires, a situation involving an armed person or other violent threat at or near the school, natural disasters or other situations that would trigger an evacuation or lockdown.
"Our community isn't immune to any of these situations," Bentz said.
Brian Strong, teacher of the vocationally focused transition class at Merced High School, said the 18- to 22-year-old students with disabilities got an opportunity to experience assembly line practices.
He said the students were aware of the importance of putting these kits together and the fact they would be useful in an emergency.
"It's been a good experience," Strong said.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at
(209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.