It is safety first for Soboba students

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Soboba Tribal Preschool students are led away from the building during a practice fire drill Aug. 24. Valley News/ Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Special to Valley News

Students at the Soboba Tribal Preschool and Noli Indian School were given lessons that couldn’t be learned in a book. Each school recently received detailed instructions on how to stay safe in an emergency and how to react to a fire drill, should the need arise. Soboba’s Department of Public Safety is responsible for the overall safety of both schools.

“We are very involved,” Director of Public Safety Brian Herritt said. “Officers drop in daily to interact with the children. We do the fire drills, a 9-1-1 call campaign, Red Ribbon week, stranger danger training and others.”

DPS School Resource Officer Andrea Helms and two security officers on staff work specifically in the schools and are supported by the Department of Public Safety.

“Officer Helms coordinated the drills and did an outstanding job,” Herritt said.

Helms said her role as the lead campus resource officer was to ensure the safety of the students and staff during the fire drill.

“Working with all age groups I must adapt the procedures and information to the appropriate age level, still getting the same result of having the students and staff arrive to the designated safe place in an appropriate time frame,” Helms said.

She said the most important lesson to be learned is to remember to remain calm and listen to the person who is in charge of giving the directions.

“Overall, we try to make it routine on what to do during a fire drill,” Herritt said. “When the alarm sounds or when we need everyone to leave the building, we want them to be comfortable and know what to do.”

Amber Lopez, who is the preschool’s office manager, said the “kids did amazing” and teaching the children those important drills is very helpful.

With all the recent headlines about local wildfires that families are sure to hear about, Herritt said it’s important for parents to keep certain things in mind if something happens while their children are away at school.

“Don’t rush to the school. Chances are you’re not going to be able to pick up your kids. We have a system and will notify you where to reunite with your children,” Herritt said, adding that it is important to make sure the schools have accurate contact information for parents and guardians. He also suggests all families download the Soboba app, which is frequently used for community announcements and notifications.

“Be open to talking to your kids and ask them if they have any questions,” Herritt said, adding that sometimes after the kids have participated in a fire drill at school, they want to know what to do when they are at home.

“At Soboba, we are blessed to have a very collaborative relationship with our Fire Department, school and our tribal administration,” Herritt said. “We are always working together to provide quality services to our community.”