Public-private partnership to distribute emergency "go-bags" to Westhampton Elementary School classrooms
Westhampton police, Massachusetts State Police, the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, Westhampton Elementary School PTO, O’Connell Oil, based in Pittsfield, United Plumbing Supply, of Springfield and Blue Stone Studio, of Westfield, have formed a public-private partnership to help ensure children’s safety in the event of an emergency.
Following a lock-down drill at Westhampton Elementary School, 37 Kings Highway, on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 9:30 a.m., law enforcement officials, PTO members and representatives from O’Connell Oil and Bluestone Studios will present a dozen “go-bags” with emergency supplies for every classroom.
Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan; Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Yvonne Pesce, chief of the Juvenile Justice Unit, and others will be on hand to talk to reporters after the lock-down, which should be concluded by approximately 9:45-10 a.m.
“Our highest priority is to keep our children safe in the schools and this community effort will help ensure that this happens in the case of an emergency,” Sullivan said.
A lock-down is a simple procedure whereby students are secured in their classrooms whenever there is a credible threat against their safety, whether natural or manmade.
The kits are designed to help children and their teachers stay in the classroom for an extended period of time should that become necessary. Funded by contributions from O’Connell Oil and Bluestone Studio, the “go-bags” include a wind-up radio, wind-up flashlight, rudimentary first aid kit, basic toiletries, attendance sheets and lollipops.
Massachusetts State Police have been working with local police to hold lock-down drills, much like fire drills, with all the schools in the Northwestern District since March 2010.
The public-private partnership is key to the success of the school safety program, Massachusetts State Police Lt. Andrew Bzdel said.
“Budgets are tight and for these businesses to step forward and work with the PTO to make the go-bags possible is huge.”
Westhampton Elementary School Principal Deane Bates praised the close involvement of State Police.
“We don’t have the level of emergency services that a larger, urban area would have,” Bates said. “We’re happy that Trooper Bzdel and the State Police have taken an active role in helping us to prepare.”