BELLEVUE, Wash. — Winter break was hardly a holiday for the custodial staff of the Bellevue School District.
Instead, they completed 40 hours of training in “disaster skills," everything from finding missing students to triaging and treating wounded.
“They’ve been trained to be incident commanders to step up and lead the rest of our staff and our students in the response,” said Douglas James, the director of security for the Bellevue School District.
ouglas James is a former DEA agent. He sees the custodial staff as a traditionally underutilized resource that, with the proper training, could make all the difference should the worst happen.
The 40-hour course over two training sessions is approved by FEMA to train lay people to respond to a broad range of disasters.
“They’re the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. They know the comings and goings of the school setting – who belongs there and who doesn’t,” James said.
For head custodian Nathan Lazaro-Shea it’s a step outside his comfort zone and he sees that as a good thing.
“Because, as a custodian, I’m with the kids the entire day, pretty much the entire day, and if there is any disaster that happens it’s great to know these kind of skills,” Lazaro-Shea said.
The hope is they’ll never have to use the information taught in the course, but there’s comfort in knowing they could.
“It’s a different generation now then when I was in school. I think it’s really critical for us to learn all these things to get us prepared,” Lazaro-Shea said.