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Menomonee Falls' use of evacuation simulation software receives national attention

May 20, 2014

Menomonee Falls This is not a drill.

At a recent all-school assembly, it took less than two minutes for 1600 students and staff to evacuate the gymnasium at Menomonee Falls High School, a time that reflects the impact of the school district's employment of SportEvac evacuation training software.

In doing so, the district became the first in the country to deploy SportEvac, which is a simulated training, operation and planning software that allows sporting event organizers to develop and enhance effective emergency management capabilities.

"The software is giving me a deeper understanding through 3-D visualization and analysis of the cause and effects for worker placement, number of workers, and public announcement protocols," said Menomonee Falls High School Athletic Director Ryan Anderson, who added he and his team turned to SportEvac in their effort to create plans to efficiently and safely remove people from potentially harmful situations at sporting events.

Seeing a need

Discussion about the need for such a comprehensive emergency scenario plan began last fall, at a meeting of the minds featuring local community leaders.

"That's when I realized we have a couple of very big holes," Anderson said. "At that point, when asked what we would do in case of a major weather incident or explosion, I would have said we should run as fast as we can. That simply wasn't good enough."

Instead, Anderson sought to find a model for the entire school to follow for fire drills and other types of evacuation situations.

"I had a goal to try to streamline and find a way to save the district at least $15,000," Anderson said. "I realized if we have everyone on the same page, we can do more than save the district money. We can save lives."

3-D simulations

Developed in a collaboration between INCONTROL Simulation Solutions and The National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4), the center's director, Lou Marciani, said the program creates realistic, site-specific 3-D simulations of venues, such as the high school gymnasium in the case of Menomonee Falls.

The simulations help create assessments of safety and security, and the subsequent development of emergency plans and procedures. Since the district agreed to be the first in the nation to try the program, Menomonee Falls received a discounted price of $15,000 to be spread over three years, a savings of $10,000.

"The addition of SportEvac offers high schools a unique tool for mitigating risk through the capabilities of looking at the 'what if' scenarios with their planning, training and exercises," Marciani said. "The simulations help facilitate assessments of safety and security and subsequent development of emergency plans and procedures."

Falls as pioneer

The efforts in Menomonee Falls are not going unnoticed, as the district has been selected for the National High School Sport Safety and Security Facility of Merit Award.

To be presented at the 2014 NCS4 conference in July, the award is given to a program that has performed above and beyond normal operations, has demonstrated an innovative approach to enhancing safety and security, or has resolved a significant safety/security issue or incident.

"It has really been fascinating to see the program work so well," Anderson said. "And to know we are going to be capable of evacuating faster and more safely has made this a truly worthwhile endeavor for the district."

Presented by The University of Southern Mississippi, this video features the efforts of the Menomonee Falls School District to improve safety as part of a comprehensive emergency scenario plan:

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