Prepared for disaster? Several school districts don't stockpile emergency supplies

Prepared for disaster? Several school districts don't stockpile emergency supplies »Play Video

Should a major disaster strike the state of Oregon, the On Your Side Investigators learned several of the area's largest districts do not have stockpiles of emergency supplies.

The Beaverton School District and Salem-Keizer School District, for instance, only keep enough food, water and emergency medical supplies on hand to support students and staff on regular school days. Those supplies can last a day or two.

"Based on our business model we don't stockpile a lot of food and water because we're good stewards of the money that we have and want to make sure that everything is kept fresh. And we don't have (a) large storage area," said Kevin Sutherland, Beaverton School District's public safety director.

The On Your Side Investigators started asking questions after the city of Portland issued a boil water alert Friday when several samples of the city's drinking water tested positive for E. coli. A 24-hour boil water alert sent countless Portlanders scrambling to buy bottled water and, within hours, several grocery stores were sold out.

"If we have to make an immediate decision, then we'll take the facts that we have and we'll do that," Sutherland said.

The Salem-Keizer School District dealt with water problems at one of its elementary schools about five years ago, according to district spokesman Jay Remy. In that case, Remy said the district's food services provider brought in extra bottled water and hand-washing stations. The problem only lasted a few days.

If the emergency is district-wide or impacts the community, like a large earthquake, several district spokespeople said school leaders would consider closing the district. In those cases, Sutherland said an emergency management team would call the shots. Sutherland did not know of any disasters that closed a school, or the district, for more than a day in the Beaverton School District.

All that said, Sutherland said his district is willing to talk with city and county leaders to find out what the community standard of care is for school districts stockpiling supplies.

"I think we're headed in the right direction," Sutherland said.

The On Your Side Investigators called several large school districts around the area, including Portland Public Schools (PPS). Each classroom at PPS has an emergency go kit with flashlights, MREs, first aid kits and red and green cards to signal for help, according to district spokeswoman Christine Miles.

Miles said the kits are designed to last a few days, which she said is standard.

"Remember, it's not realistic during a major emergency to have all 78 schools shelter in one place for several days," Miles said.