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Press Release

Contra Costa Schools Encouraged to Participate in Shelter-In-Place Drill

Richmond and Martinez Schools Chosen as Model Sites

September 21, 2006

Having to shelter-in-place is nothing new for children at Las Deltas Head Start in Richmond. That's why the preschool participates in the annual Countywide All School Drill every year. The children have had to use the skills they learned for real life emergencies twice over the past five years because of hazardous materials incidents in their community, according to Head Start Site Supervisor Irma Shearrod-Owens.

This year's All School Drill will be held 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, and all public and private schools, childcare centers and colleges in Contra Costa are encouraged to participate. The deadline to register is Sept. 29. Shearrod-Owens said the drill gives children and their caregivers an important opportunity to practice responding to the Community Warning System sirens, which sound an alert when there has been a dangerous chemical release or other disaster that requires a shelter-in-place.

"When the sirens sound, our children don't panic because they know what to do. If they're outside, they know to go directly to a teacher and everyone goes inside. This really helps us because we don't have to chase the kids around the playground during an emergency," Shearrod-Owens said.

Last year, more than 250 schools and day care sites participated in the drill, which is sponsored by the Contra Costa County Community Awareness Emergency Response group (CAER), a public and private partnership funded by industry and made up of representatives of government, industry and community organizations.

Las Deltas Head Start, which has about 34 children, and Hidden Valley Elementary School in Martinez, which has 729 students, were selected as model school sites for the drill, said CAER Executive Director Tony Semenza. "This is such an important drill because we face the very real possibility of disasters such as hazardous material accidents and terrorism, making it vital for residents to respond correctly to shelter-in-place alerts. Las Deltas and Hidden Valley Elementary demonstrate that this drill is just as useful for a small daycare as for a larger school. We encourage everyone to join us in preparing for the worst so that we may do our best during an emergency," Semenza said.

Hidden Valley Elementary School Principal Lorie O'Brien said her staff and students are excited about being chosen as a model school site.

"This is a great way to see if we really have this nailed down to make sure we are doing everything right to keep our children safe during an emergency," O'Brien said.

To participate in CAER's All School Drill, call 925-313-9296 or visit CAER's website:

Attention Editors: The media is invited to attend CAER's All-School Drill at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4 at Las Deltas Head Start in Richmond and Hidden Valley Elementary School in Martinez. Call in advance: Irma Shearrod-Owens, Site Supervisor, Las Deltas Head Start, 510-374-3444 or Lorie O'Brien, Principal, Hidden Valley Elementary School, Martinez, 925-228-9530.

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Press Contact
  • Tony Semenza, Exec. Dir., CAER
  • 925-313-9296