"We're so far away -- in the middle of Sikeston, Vanduser and Morley -- and it will take as much as 10 or 15 minutes for emergency professionals to get here," Conaway said about the school district. "So we have to be able to take care of ourselves."
Conaway was among approximately 20 other Scott County educators attending Community Emergency Response Teams training Wednesday provided by the Scott County Emergency Management Agency. The three-day training, which included teachers from Kelly, Oran and Scott Central schools, began Tuesday at Kelly High School.
"One of our big goals with this (training) is to learn from the hurricanes that happened," said Scott County Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Burton. "Federal Emergency Management Agency was blamed for a lot of it, but a lot of the responsibility belonged to the local communities, many of which weren't prepared to take control."
With CERT, the county wants to make sure schools get disaster plans in place, Burton said. And although the state requires school districts to have some type of emergency plan, they're not always exercised on a regular basis, he pointed out.
"Teachers are here with 200 or 300 students and need to be able to take care of the students, should a disaster occur," Burton said.
The training course consists of 20 hours of class work and hands-on training, such as bandaging and dressing wounds and operating fire extinguishers as well as a mock entrapment. On Wednesday afternoon, participants even worked in teams to extinguish fairly large fires.
"I'm a little awakened by this, definitely," admitted Scott Central first grade teacher Stacey Russell about the training. And after going through fire training, she said, "It was harder than it looked."
A big portion of this week's training was due to the Cape Girardeau City Fire Department loaning Scott County its CERT trailer, which is full of equipment to be used in disasters, noted Burton and Scott County Developer Joel Evans. The CERT trailer has been used for a long time to help the City of Cape Girardeau and Cape County prepare for emergencies and can be used for a combination of training and response.
"This has spurred a whole process," said Oran Elementary Principal Kristy Unger, who attended the training.
Oran schools began installing safety kits last year, but after attending the training, Unger thinks the kits will need to be revamped. For example, instead of using big boxes to store emergency kit supplies, a backpack would be more realistic to carry around during a disaster.
"You can never be too prepared at home and in school," said Oran teacher Shawna Read. "A lot of people don't realize what it takes to react in an emergency."
Things like turning off all of the utilities in different buildings and evaluating all of the hazardous situations often slip people's minds when thinking about disaster situations, Read pointed out.
Unger noted the Oran school district is looking at federal grants that would enable CERT to come in and train the entire district.
Like Oran, Scott Central won't necessarily need to make changes to its disaster preparedness plan, but rather additions to it, he said. Among the additions will be search and rescue drills included in building evacuations and safety kits in each of the classrooms.
"Going through the motions of a plan isn't enough," said Russell, who along with Conaway is on the Scott Central's school emergency plan team.
Burton said the county also hopes the school officials will take what they've learned out into their community and even to their neighbors. He added registration is now being taken for CERT training available to the general public.
"A plan to take action doesn't limit to a certain area," noted training participant Kim Foster, who lives in Scott County but teaches at St. Henry Catholic School in Charleston. "You have to plan the variables around the situation and learn the fundamentals."