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Press Release

Contra Costa schools to participate in Shelter-in-Place drill

Richmond and Martinez schools model sites for drill

September 24, 2007

School children across Contra Costa will participate in the annual Countywide All School Drill next week to practice how to Shelter-in-Place.

Washington Elementary School in Richmond participates regularly in the drill, and students and staff have had to use their Shelter-in-Place skills for refinery accidents, heavy smoke from an off-site fire and police activity, said Washington Principal Roz Plishner.

"We've had the real thing and our children and our staff know what to do because we have practiced how to Shelter-in-Place. We all take this very seriously because we know how important it is to be ready," Plishner said.

This year's All School Drill will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, and all public and private schools, childcare centers and colleges in Contra Costa are encouraged to participate. The event 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.

Last year, about 200 schools and daycare 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, agencies and cities. CAER is made up of representatives of government agencies, industry and community organizations that work together to improve emergency response planning and to inform the public about how to react in the event of a chemical emergency.

Washington Elementary in Richmond, which has 530 children, and St. Catherine's School in Martinez, a private school with 160 students, have volunteered to be model school sites this year, said CAER Executive Director Tony Semenza. The schools will get a special visit from CAER's Shelter-in-Place mascot, Wally Wise Guy the turtle. "This is such an important drill because we face the very real possibility of disasters, such as hazardous material accidents and natural disasters. We must ensure that our residents, especially our children and those who care for them, know how to respond correctly to Shelter-in-Place alerts. We encourage everyone to join us in being prepared" Semenza said.

St. Catherine's participates in the drill every year, said Principal Andrew von Haunalter. "We've created a very safe environment here but because of our location near a refinery and the county jail, we know we need to be prepared for anything," von Haunalter said. "This is a way for our school to be proactive about protecting our children."

For more information about 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. 3 at Washington Elementary School, 565 Wine St., Richmond, 94801, Washington Principal Roz Plishner, 510-231-1417; or St. Catherine's School, 604 Mellus St., Martinez, 94553, St. Catherine's Principal Andrew Von Haunalter, 925-228-4140 or cell 510-774-7251. Please call ahead.

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Press Contact
  • Tony Semenza, Exec. Dir., CAER
  • 925-980-4883