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Keeping Our Students Safe

Article Date: 
3 September, 2010 - 06:00

During the settlement of the West, Morgan County was shielded from the initial onslaught of explorers and pioneers due to its unique geographic isolation.  Near the Devil’s Slide on the east side of the valley the canyon narrowed and made passage difficult and on the west end of the valley the Horseshoe Bend and Devil’s Gate made travel impossible.  Brigham Young sent an expedition party down the Weber River to determine if wagons could traverse the riverbed and enter the Salt Lake Valley from that direction.  The party returned with the glum news and thus forced the caravan to cut a pathway along Hastings Cutoff and the Reed Trail in Emigration Canyon.  In 1855 Thomas Thurston and his party were finally able to cut a rudimentary passage around Devil’s Gate.  In 1868, Union Pacific crews “broke through” the hard rock ledges adjacent to the Weber River and the Transcontinental Railroad tracks opened the valley to travelers and commerce.
Today, Morgan Valley is bisected by rail tracks, interstate highway, airline traffic routes, natural gas and petroleum pipelines, fiber optic lines, and microwave towers.  Morgan City also has the distinction of being one of the few cities in the country that has five reservoirs feeding into its drainage area.  East Canyon, Lost Creek, Echo, Rockport, and Smith and Morehouse reservoirs are all upstream of the city.
All of these add convenience and a tax base to city, county, and schools.  They also add risk and potential hazard to these same entities.
On any given day, something could occur that might place the health and safety of residents in jeopardy.  A train derails upwind of the city, a major earthquake rattles the Salt Lake Valley and Echo Reservoir is compromised, or a semi-trailer rolls and the contents spill onto the interstate.
The Morgan County School District has developed over the years an emergency plan that includes procedures for bomb threat, earthquake, emergency school closure, fire, flood, hazardous material, intruder/violence, power outage and other utility problems, and serious injury or death response plans.  All schools practice regular fire drills and at least one earthquake drill each year.  The schools have also, on occasion, practiced procedures for the other types of emergencies.
On Monday of this week lightning struck a major power line, cutting electrical services to the school's in Morgan City.  Many middle school and high school students had already arrived and hundreds more were in route in buses.  Land-line phone service was disrupted and communications between parents and the schools were affected.  District personnel took the necessary action to keep the schools open, teachers ready to receive students, and food prepared for lunchtime.  Unfortunately, the communication element of the plan was not as effective.  Phone systems in some schools did not work without power and the direct land-line was not connected to specific phone in the schools.  Calls were not going in or out of the buildings.  The computerized system that can automatically call the homes of all students in a matter of minutes would not function because of the outage.
Our district emergency preparedness team has been instructed to review the emergency preparedness handbook and revise as necessary.  They are to work closely with city, county, and state emergency services personnel to prepare drills that better meet the demands of the particular situation we find ourselves in.  The administration from each school is to train and practice drills in all categories of the plan.
The Morgan Valley is a beautiful and unique geographic wonder.  We’re fortunate to live in such a beautiful setting.  It also presents its residents with some interesting challenges when it comes to the health and safety of its inhabitants.  The schools are committed to preparing and training the staff and students in regards to emergency preparedness and being ready if and when a crisis arises.