The Morongo Band of Mission Indians conducted a surprise emergency drill on Wednesday, Oct. 16 to practice safely evacuating students from the three Morongo Indian Reservation school campuses in the face of a simulated intruder threatening the facilities.
As part of the annual drill, more than 120 students were quickly and successfully evacuated as Riverside County sheriff’s deputies partnered with tribal first responders and other law enforcement as part of the training scenario. Parents, teachers, and students were only warned that a disaster readiness drill would be held sometime during the week of Oct. 14.
“Morongo takes emergency readiness very seriously, and exercises such as this help ensure we are trained and prepared to work with our regional law enforcement partners in the face of a critical incident that threatens students, either on our reservation or elsewhere in our region,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin.
The exercise was designed to hone the ability of Morongo first responders and schools to safely evacuate students during a crisis and to make sure numerous tribal and county departments can work efficiently and effectively together during an emergency.
Morongo Education Administrator Lisa Santos Tabarez said students and teachers performed exceptionally well during the surprise exercise, which has become an annual event. “Our parents appreciate how our emergency training programs help keep their children safe, and they are very supportive of this annual program,” Tabarez said.
The drill began shortly after 10 a.m., when Morongo firefighters and patrol officers rolled into action with emergency vehicles as the evacuation order was issued. Alerts crackled across low-power FM station used for backup communications on the reservation in disasters.
Reservation and casino security officers arrived to assist school officials who accounted for each pupil and loaded them onto tribal school busses that whisked the students away to the Morongo softball fields. Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies conducted room-by-room searches of the schools as part of the scenario as they searched for the simulated intruder.
More than 100 personnel participated in the drill, including Morongo School administrators and teachers, the Morongo Fire Department, Tribal Reservation Patrol, Morongo Public Safety Department, Morongo Public Works Department and the Morongo Transportation Department.
“When it comes to disaster readiness, there’s no such thing as too much practice,” said Morongo Emergency Services Administrator Floyd Velasquez. “Evacuation drills are invaluable for helping ensure that everyone is ready to respond and work in unison during a real-life incident.”