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Lathrop High conducts mass evacuation
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Students filed in a safe and timely manner into Paul Wiggin Stadium used as a safe place for the evacuation drill exercise at Lathrop High. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT / The Bulletin

It took all of 20 minutes for students, teachers and staff at Lathrop High Wednesday to file into the stadium from their place on campus in a safe and orderly manner.

That was quite an accomplishment in this evacuation drill, according to the Lathrop Police Department and the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District.

“Today, you made history,” Battalion Chief Larry Madoski said to the nearly 1,300 students seated on the campus safe place along the grand stands of Paul Wiggin Stadium. “You were part of the very first mass evacuation exercise in the Manteca Unified School District.”’

This dry run for emergency situations served various purposes, said Vice Principal Bill Pinol.

Prior to the drill, he was uncertain if the two emergency evacuation routes were efficient enough to get students from their classrooms and to the campus safe place.

“I don’t know how people will react or what to expect,” said Pinol, who held a pre-evacuation drill meeting in the Career Center to review the operation.

He was pleased with the results.

Pinol noted the physical dynamics of Lathrop High as unlike that of the other MUSD schools.

For one, the campus sits alone and with only two access roads – Spartan Way is the main route while Dos Reis Road is at the back of the school – and the San Joaquin River is only a stone’s throw away.

An actual emergency – examples of that include a levee break, a gun man, or a fire – could easily congest traffic on Spartan Way and the nearby roads, making it a tough to access fire, police and ambulance.

The airwaves must be accessible in these difficult situations.

Students were prohibited from using their cell phones for texting, talking or logging on to social media in the drill. In an event of a real emergency, Madoski and others indicated that such messages sent out to outside parties can create confusion while slow down communications to emergency services personnel.

As for the campus safe place, the stadium made it an easier process for teachers and staff to account for each student.

Shortly after 10:05 a.m., a message to kick-off the drill was delivered on the public address system; “Lockdown-lockdown, we have an emergency situation…  All lights are to be off and students are to be away from doors and windows.”

The objective of this worse-case scenario drill was “to have a plan that’s effective and one that works for us,” Pinol said.

Madoski is aware that each person reacts differently in actual situations. “Your motor skills may not be the same and you can lose your ability to think clearly,” he said.

In the aftermath of the drill, Pinol and others met again to gather feedback and share ideas on tweaking the plans.

For example, they noted that each classroom should have an extensive full-range emergency kit and that monitors should wear some sort of uniformed clothing to better identify themselves.

“We learned a lot from this (drill),” Pinol said.


To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail