A two-day conference designed to prepare educators for possible school and college emergencies begins Thursday in Columbia with participants hearing from safety experts and sharing lessons learned.

The Third Annual Conference on Coordinated School and College Safety and Security is sponsored by the Missouri School Boards’ Association . MSBA Chief Communications Officer Brent Ghan says that while most educators and emergency responders believe our schools and colleges are safe there is a need to be prepared for anything that might happen.

"The message that we have at these conferences is," according to Ghan. "Even though the odds of a particular incident happening at your school building or your college campus are relatively small you still need to be prepared, you still need to develop plans for how you would handle emergency situations involving safety."

The best plans in the world are of no value if they are not studied and practiced by those who must be in the know in the event of disaster.

"It’s absolutely critical that the classroom teacher understand exactly what to do in the case of a school safety incident," said Ghan. "And how to handle the kids, how to keep them calm in a situation, and just how to react properly."

The preparation of the classroom teacher is critical in so many emergency situations.

"What we want to emphasize is that the classroom teacher needs to be very familiar with those plans," said Ghan. "Not just the building principal and not just administrators."

Preparedness advice will not be limited to natural disasters, fires, and the like. Among the presenters will be an expert on terrorism research and response.

Download/Listen: Steve Walsh report (:60 MP3)