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Tammy Real-McKeighan, Fremont Tribune 

Cindy Hartgrave, left, and her daughter, Penelope have some coffee last Thursday after students were released from Fremont High School, which went into lockdown.

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How Fremont Alliance became a rallying point during last week's lockdown

The Rev. Tom Nevius at Fremont Alliance Church is very clear: the church played only a small role in the response to last week’s lockdown incident at Fremont High School.

There were bigger heroes that day, Nevius said, like the law enforcement officers who responded to reports that two juveniles had entered the building with what appeared to be a handgun, later determined to be a BB gun.

But as officers descended upon the school, evacuating students room by room, Fremont Alliance, which is just across the street from the high school, emerged as a partner in the response, a rallying point where students were taken to wait until the situation was deemed safe.

It was a role that the church both embraced and, to some extent, was prepared for.

Roughly a month earlier, Nevius said, the school’s Coordinator of District Security Kevin Kavan had engaged the church about using the building as a potential gathering point during emergencies. The church was cooperative — but never expected that it would be used so soon.

“It was very hard for me to believe this was happening, because it happens in other places,” Nevius said. “There wasn’t a threat, there wasn’t a firearm found. But you didn’t know that. The unknown, that’s what gets you.”

Nevius had been in an appointment with someone at around 5 p.m. on Nov. 29 when the church secretary came in to alert him that the school was in lockdown and that students were coming in.

Nevius and four other staff members remained on hand to assist, ushering kids in and taking down their names on a sheet in order to keep track of who was there. Only about 40 students were in the high school at the time of the lockdown.

Parents were not initially allowed into the building, and once they were, they were kept in the church’s fellowship hall, separate from the kids, who were in the sanctuary.

That separation appears to have been directed by law enforcement, though it’s unclear which agency gave out that direction. The Fremont Police Department, Nebraska State Patrol and Dodge County Sheriff’s Office all responded to the scene.

“We were doing what we were told,” Nevius said.

As students waited for the all-clear, which came at 6:05 p.m., the church acted as more than a gathering point. Church staff had music playing to help create a calm environment. They made coffee to help pass the time. They prayed with some of the kids and parents as they waited.

“It was a different kind of evening for us,” Nevius said. “We were happy to open our building up.”

But Nevius recalls students’ demeanor during the event. He recalls seeing students simply standing around with each other, talking and taking the edge off. And while some students appeared upset, the general mood in the room was calm.

“There was some tension of course not knowing what really was happening, but the kids seemed to take it pretty well, pretty good,” he said. “They seemed to be handling it really really well. I was happy to see that. There were a few students who were upset, but beyond that I think they were taking it in stride.”

Fremont Public Schools and the Fremont Alliance Church have had a positive, “20-year plus” relationship, says Superintendent Mark Shepard. The two entities have often used each other’s facilities for different events.

“Obviously we really appreciated their cooperation and their willingness to help us in that situation,” Shepard said. “We have a number of partnerships across the community and continue to develop them for these kinds of situations. Not that we ever want to have to deal with these kinds of situations, but you have to be prepared if they present themselves.”

More recently, Kavan, whose position of coordinator for district security is new this year, has been reaching out to existing partners in the community like Fremont Alliance “so that we can strengthen those relationships and kind of formalize those relationships,” Shepard added.

Shepard noted that there are several contingencies in place during emergency situations, and that the plan would have been different had the lockdown event happened during the middle of the school day, when there would have been a significantly larger number of students in the building.

But last Thursday, the roughly 40 students in the building fell into the care of Fremont Alliance Church. Nevius directed most of his praise elsewhere.

“It was the law enforcement and the teachers and administrators and the school administrators and students and parents being able to stay so calm,” Nevius said. “They’re the real heroes of (last week) and they did a great job. “

Fire department urges safety during the holidays

It was an unusual — but a very timely — wake up call.

Recently, some local residents were asleep when flames caused a doorbell to short out.

The doorbell began ringing — waking people in the house and alerting them to a fire.

A Fremont Fire Department report states that an outside outlet by the front door was overloaded and that the fire may have been caused by Christmas lights on the front of the house.

So with the holiday season in progress, local firefighters are warning the public to be cautious to prevent fire and electrical hazards.

No injuries were reported in the recent fire and occupants of the house had extinguished the blaze with water from kitchen sink by the time firefighters arrived, said Rick Schutt, a firefighter and paramedic.

But the situation could have been worse.

“If the doorbell hadn’t shorted out and was ringing inside — waking up the occupants — the fire could have been more serious,” said Fire Chief Todd Bernt.

Schutt said the occupants were powering all their exterior Christmas lighting off a three-way adapter plug.

The lights were an older-style type which draws more power than the newer LED lights.

“I think part of the issue here was they were a little bit older lights that were drawing quite a bit of power and everything was coming off one circuit,” Schutt said.

At least one of the cords was coiled and one cord, which was stuffed behind the siding, was going to the roof.

“That’s an issue when they start getting too hot,” he said.

The doorbell, which was in that same exterior wall down from the plug in, started to short out once the fire started.

Schutt said there was damage to exterior siding of the house, but none inside.

With this situation in mind, Schutt and other firefighters, businesses and agencies have these holiday safety tips:

  • Only buy lights, electrical decorations and extension cords that are UL-listed.
  • Inspect extension cords for any possible damage. Make sure there are no cuts or exposed bare wires. Don’t pinch cords against walls or furniture.
  • Don’t coil an extension cord or throw a mat or rug over the top. Don’t run the cords across doorways. Cords under rugs can overheat, especially when the wires inside begin to break down because people have been stepping on them.
  • If you plan to decorate outdoors, make sure to use lights and decorations rated for outdoor use and which are weatherproof.
  • When hanging Christmas lights, reduce the risk of electrical shock by not using a metal ladder.
  • Turn off lights and decorations before going to bed.
  • Every so often, check Christmas light wires to make sure they’re not warm to the touch.
  • Don’t overload a power strip. “Don’t plug in a space heater with a bunch of other stuff,” Schutt said. Don’t overload wiring by plugging more than one heat-producing appliance into the same outlet or circuit.
  • Purchase a space heater that will shut off automatically if it is tipped over. Without this feature, a space heater that gets knocked over could get too hot, short out and create a fire hazard.
  • Keep space heaters a safe distance from things that could catch on fire.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters, which could pose a fire hazard or burn them.
  • Make sure you have working smoke detectors.

Be aware of unusual conditions. Spot electrical problems before they start a fire, Schutt said. Some things to watch for include:

Recurring problems with blowing fuses or tripping breakers.

  • “Make sure if you do replace a fuse or a breaker that you’re putting the same size breaker in that circuit,” Schutt said. “We don’t want to be putting bigger breakers in to prevent them from tripping. They’re tripping because something is wrong.”

Discolored wall outlets.

  • “If there’s any black on the outlet or above it that could indicate something’s getting hot and shorting out,” Schutt said.

Burning smell.

  • “Anytime you have a burning smell or a rubbery odor coming from an appliance or anything that’s plugged in watch for that warning sign,” he said.

When buying a natural, live Christmas tree:

  • Buy a freshly cut tree. Don’t buy a tree with brittle or shedding needles.
  • When you get the tree home make a clean cut across the base of the trunk that allows it to take up water, keeping it fresh. “When they dry out, that’s when they pose a pretty significant fire hazard,” Schutt said.
  • Keep the tree in a sturdy, non-tip tree stand that can hold at least one gallon of water. “Trees can take up to a gallon or more of water each day, so it’s important to check it at least once a day,” Schutt said. “Once your tree stops absorbing water, it will dry up and become a fire hazard so at that time, it’s important to discard the tree.”

Regarding artificial trees:

  • Keep them away from heat sources such as heat vents, fireplaces, space heaters and candles.

Brent Wasenius / Evan Nordstrom / Fremont Tribune 

Lexie Langley of Fremont Bergan hits a kill as Anna Wakehouse (10) and Anjolena Hampton of Tekamah-Herman defend during an October game in the Gary D. Schmidt Gymnasium. Bergan won the match 25-8, 25-10, 25-7. Langley, an Augustana recruit, is the honorary captain of the Fremont Tribune All-Area Volleyball Team. 

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Dodge youth wins NRD Poster Contest

Artwork created by area youths will be featured in the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) national poster contest in Washington D.C.

The Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) recently announced state winners of the 2018 NRD Poster Contest – where K-12 students from across the state are encouraged to participate by designing and drawing a poster related to conserving natural resources.

This year, the poster contest theme was “Watersheds: Our Water, Our Home.”

“This poster contest goes deeper than just kids drawing pretty pictures,” Erika Hill, public relations director of NARD, said. “It’s a way to get them thinking about what it truly means to conserve our natural resources and to learn about watersheds and other important parts of Nebraska’s resources.”

This year’s state contest included winners from Dodge and Colfax Counties including Emma Lienemann from Dodge who won the K-1st Grade division and Luke Belina from Clarkson who won the 2-3rd Grade division.

Other state winners include Naomi Busenitz from Nenzel (4-6th Grade), Brooke Milam from Thedford (7-9th Grade) and Zoey Kreikemeier from West Point (10-12th Grade).

All five youth posters will now move to the NACD national poster contest in Washington D.C. where judges will determine overall winners from states across the country. Each first place winner at the national level will receive a $100 cash prize. Second place winners will receive $50.

National winners will be announced during the 2019 NACD Annual Meeting in San Antonio.

According to Hill, Typically the NRDs send poster contest information out to area teachers who then introduce the poster contest to their classrooms and encourage their students to compete.

She added that if individual students want to participate outside of the classroom they can submit entries to their local natural resources district.

For K-12 students in Fremont, entries should be sent to the Lower Platte North NRD’s headquarters at 511 Commercial Park Road in Wahoo by mailing to PO Box 126, Wahoo, NE 68066.

Students interested in participating can also contact Hill at NARD at 402-471-7672 or email at to get signed up to participate in next year’s contest.

The theme of the 2019 NACD Poster Contest is “Life in the Soil: Dig Deeper.”

Hill says the contests strive to get youth involved and interested in environmental stewardship.

“We hope they grow up with an interest in learning more and doing their part to continue creating a sustainable future for us all,” she said.