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District gearing up for emergency drill

Although City of Tonawanda residents may soon hear reports of a boiler explosion at Tonawanda High School, they can take comfort in knowing it is only part of a districtwide emergency drill at the end of the month that has been almost two years in the making.

Students, staff and faculty in the district's high and middle schools will be tested when the district holds a communitywide emergency drill the afternoon of March 24. The drill will include a simulated boiler explosion, smoke throughout the buildings and volunteer "victims" to test the district's response to an emergency.

Tonawanda Police and Fire departments also will participate in the drill.

"This is really quite an undertaking," said Assistant Superintendent Peter Michaelsen, who helped develop the emergency plan and drill.

The drill will be done as part of a $76,000 emergency response grant from the federal Department of Education that Tonawanda received in September 2004.

For the past 18 months, district officials have met with police and fire officials as well as representatives from the Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which has coordinated other large-scale emergency drills elsewhere in the county.

District officials asked School Board member Thomas Balk to help coordinate the event throughout the community.

Balk, who recently retired from the Buffalo Police Department, said the drill will show problem areas in an emergency response. "[The drill] is a practice of what we have in place, should something happen," Balk said. "This is going to be a learning experience for everybody."

One of the main objectives of the drill is to develop an updated and comprehensive hazard analysis profile for the district in compliance with federal standards. If successful, the drill will not only improve coordination between buildings within the district in an emergency, but also with the Police and Fire departments.

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