Students of SDSM School for Excellence at the launch of their disaster management committee in Sidhgora, Jamshedpur, on Wednesday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Is it humanly possible to evacuate a school building with 2,500 students within five minutes in case of a fire? Yes, says SDSM School for Excellence.
The institution in Sidhgora, Jamshedpur, affiliated to CBSE has arguably become the first school in the state to boast a disaster management committee comprising teachers and students who have received special training to handle emergency situations.
The school disaster management committee (SDMC) was launched on the campus on Wednesday by R.K. Sinha, head of workplace safety at Tata Steel, which in association with its SAFE Club (an umbrella for 70 schools) had organised a four-day workshop in August.
"It is a proud moment for us to see a city school take the cudgels to form a disaster management committee. The SDSM School for Excellence will lead by example. Other schools will do good to follow," Sinha said while releasing the school disaster management manual and handing over responsibility charts to safety teachers in-charge.
Principal of SDSM School for Excellence Moushumi Das said they realised the need to form a dedicated committee when they failed an evacuation speed test.
"We took 20 minutes to evacuate our school building before the workshop. Now, you don't have 20 leisure minutes when disaster strikes. So, we decided to have a proper system in place with regular drills. The maximum time we take to evacuate our building now is four minutes and 30 seconds. We are trying to bring it down to three minutes," Das said.
SDSM School for Excellence has 2,542 students on its rolls and 58 classrooms.
According to the principal, the school disaster management committee - comprising 58 students and 100 teaching and non-teaching staff - has been further divided into various teams that will coordinate awareness campaigns, emergency response and evacuation, search and rescue, firefighting, first aid, site security, transport supervision and media management.
A checklist on what to do and what not to do during an emergency has been prepared and this will be turned into posters for greater reach on the campus. Teachers have been trained to form a human chain to guide students during exigencies.
Debjani Dutta, safety co-ordinator of the junior section and a member of the disaster management committee, said the biggest challenge lay in evacuating young children. "We are preparing special charts to tell them how not to panic and follow orders," she said.
Sanjit Kumar, safetyco-ordinator of the senior section, said since their SDMC was at a nascent stage, they would get audits done by SAFE Club members every 45 days. "Gradually, the audit frequency will drop to once a quarter. We have decided to formalise a third party auditor for the future. We also plan to document the safety audits," he added.
Student member Rohit Sinha said they felt proud to have a disaster management system in place. "As head boy of SAFE Club, I will try to disseminate information and make fellow students aware of dos and don'ts during emergencies. Mock drills will be frequent," he added.