Schools, both K-12 and post-secondary institutions, continually face emergencies that vary in severity, duration, and expenditure. Therefore, emergency management is at the forefront of school safety and security related issues. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines emergency management as "the protection of the civilian population and property from the destructive forces of natural and man-made disasters through a comprehensive program of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery" (FEMA, 2010). Thus, schools must take preemptive action to successfully fulfill their primary mission, which is educating students. These preventative measures include planning, drilling and training for a variety of emergencies. Furthermore, these measures should be assessed to ensure they are current and effective.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
Alexander Graham Bell
Schools begin the planning phase through the development of an all-hazard Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). The TEC §37.108 requires each district's EOP address mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. The planning phase however does not stop with the development of an EOP; rather, this is simply the beginning of an ongoing process. Once the EOP is in place the drilling and training components of emergency management begin. Drilling refers to practicing the procedures developed during preparedness. These are the procedures that will be utilized if and when an emergency occurs. Training refers to the use of various exercises utilized to simulate emergency situations. Drilling and training are essential to identifying areas in need of improvement, clarifying member roles, and improving coordination.
In addition to developing an EOP, school districts should continually self-assess their emergency management process. The Texas Legislature addressed the need for constant improvement and awareness with the development of TEC §37.108 (b). The statute requires each school district and public junior college to conduct a safety and security audit of their facilities at least once every three years. Key features of the audits are collected by the TxSSC and aggregated into a statewide report. This process directs school districts and junior colleges attention to the safety and security needs of their facilities.
The likelihood and magnitude of earthquakes in Texas tends to be minor; however, from time to time, Texas does experience seismic activity (primarily in North Texas). While most of the state is not at risk for an earthquake, seismic activity has been recorded in several areas. Historically, minor quakes have had epicenters in Texas and Oklahoma. (Read more…)
It is not unusual for a school to call 9-1-1 for emergency assistance. However, placing emergency calls can be delayed if a school's telephone system does not support directly dialing those three important numbers. Therefore, the Texas School Safety Center, in partnership with the Texas Commission on State Emergency Communications, is encouraging all districts in the State of Texas to evaluate their phone systems to support directly dialing 9-1-1 without requiring callers to dial any additional numbers to reach an outside line. (Read more…)
Findings on Safety and Security in Texas School Districts
The purpose of the DAR is to provide key results of the safety and security audits completed by Texas public school districts. In accordance with procedures developed by the TxSSC or an equivalent public or private entity, the TEC requires districts to complete safety and security audits of their facilities once every three years. While the term "audit" is included in TEC §37.108 and used throughout this report for consistency, the process was developed as an ongoing self-assessment of a district's safety and security. A summary of the audit results is required to be submitted to the district Board of Trustees as well as the TxSSC, and incorporated into a statewide report for the public (Read more…)
The School Safety and Security Consultant Registry is an important resource for both schools seeking services and for consultants themselves. Developed by the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC), the registry is a list of persons providing school safety and/or security consulting services in the State of Texas. (Read more…)
At the end of each audit reporting cycle, school districts are required to provide certain audit information to the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) using the online reporting system. This online reporting system - DARtool - opens in the spring of each reporting year. Each district's superintendent is notified by email when the tool is opened. The notification includes instructions on how to submit the audit results. If a superintendent cannot find the email, they should contact the TxSSC immediately so that the information can be sent again. (Read more…)
Chemistry Labs, Art Rooms, Vocational Areas, and Playgrounds
Chemistry labs, art rooms, vocational training areas, and playgrounds are just a few areas that require extra time and planning in order to clean, repair and properly dispose of unneeded materials and chemicals. The following are some suggestions to guide your preparation leading to a safer and more secure school. (Read more…)
Severe weather happens frequently in Texas; however, every area of the state is vulnerable to the threat of tornados common in Texas thunderstorms. Though tornados can happen at any time of year, they most commonly occur in the spring and summer. A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornados strike with incredible velocity, with winds that may approach 300 miles per hour (MPH). (Read more…)
School safety is more than equipment and supplies. It is more than policies, plans and drills. Safe and secure schools represent a partnership among all stakeholders - educators, students, volunteers, parents and the community. Of these, perhaps the most influential partner is the parent or guardian. They are advocates of both their children and the community. The partnership between parents and schools is an important one built upon trust and open communications. It includes discussions and training about school safety and security standards and guidelines and about the challenges of keeping schools safe and secure. (Read more…)
What's in it for you?
The actions that schools take when disaster strikes, or threatens, can have a dramatic impact not only upon the educational process but also upon the community. Sustainability is an important function of school operations and affects both school and community stakeholders. This is especially true when considering the impact of school closures on the community. Schools must be active partners in all phases of emergency management and a cornerstone of the continuity and recovery processes. (Read more…)
During the winter weather season, controversy lingers in many communities across the south aimed at local decision-makers, especially school officials, who are responsible for emergency weather closing decisions. These decisions surrounded January's surprise winter storm, which paralyzed many communities, stranded motorists, delayed school closures and left many leaders questioning their advisors and second guessing themselves. Meteorologists, school superintendents and governmental officials were apologetic and first responders were overwhelmed. The overarching agreement, however, is that the only certainty is that weather is uncertain. (Read more…)
School districts face many challenges when weather affects their ability to conduct classes, operate bus routes and otherwise keep students and staff safe. For example: Will a weather-related schedule change endanger students or staff or will delaying release create greater risk? Operational decisions that impact school schedules are challenging, yet, the health, safety and security of students and staff must remain a school district's priority. If school is in session and adverse weather threatens, the district will need to consider the likelihood of impact, risk to individuals and property, and expected duration of the event. Each campus should review protective measures that would best address the risk and staff should be prepared to act appropriately. (Read more…)
School district campuses and facilities may from time to time serve as polling places. While the district endeavors to maintain the sanctity of the election process, the safety of students, faculty and staff remain the primary responsibility. As such, election officials will be asked to remain cognizant of the importance of a safe and secure campus and will work with the facility manager or principal. In order to maintain district safety and security, the district should consider the items contained in the checklist.
Drills are a first and important step in keeping schools safe and secure. They are filled with teachable moments and they are as important to schools as reading, writing and arithmetic.The purpose of drills is to save lives and property. An Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) is only as good as the ability of students, faculty and staff to execute it. Following the established plan requires a quick but careful assessment of the situation and practiced decisions as to the best course of action. (Read more…)
The State of Texas works hard to ensure the safety and security of schools. The Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) is at the heart of those efforts providing strong, researched based support to help keep schools safe and secure. Tasked in Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code with a variety of school safety initiatives and mandates, the Center provides planning, training and drill tools that school administrators use to create multi-hazard emergency management plans and processes (Read more…)
The safety and security of students in Texas school districts and institutes of higher education (IHE) is a concern for lawmakers, administrators, and citizens. However, school districts and IHE require different approaches to safety and security. A key difference between school districts and IHE campuses regards the student population. (Read more…)
When Seconds Count visually provides guidelines tailored for school districts on emergency management planning and creating increased school safety awareness. It is intended to illustrate the need for all school personnel, students, and law enforcement to be trained to respond quickly and effectively during an emergency situation. Specifically, the video gives school district personnel a better understanding of what to expect when a crisis occurs on their campus and law enforcement response to an active shooter.
When Seconds Count can be a powerful tool for bringing attention to the importance of developing emergency operations plans, training key personnel, maintaining lockdown procedures, and conducting drills and exercises to ensure effective execution of the plan when seconds do count.
Video Length | 20:40
Similar to adults, students are just as likely to encounter trauma either through personal experience or indirect knowledge of disasters that have occurred. These traumatic events can include the death of a family member, classmate, or teacher, violent event and a natural disaster. Unlike adults, however, students cope with trauma differently and often experience grief or symptoms of trauma at different time periods. 1,2,4 Trauma experienced from a disaster manifests in different ways across various age groups and can range from feelings of fear, shock, anxiety, depression, anger, denial, loss of sleep, dissociative behavior, substance abuse, and even physical stress. (Read more…)
No district or school wants to imagine the effects of a large scale disaster on their community. Often, the phrase "it will not happen here" or "it will not happen to us" is thrown around. In reality, regardless of geographical location, all districts in Texas are vulnerable to some type of large scale disaster, whether it is manmade or natural. These threats, disasters, and hazards will ultimately disrupt the school day and send the school into a state of crisis. It is the responsibility of administrators to ensure staff is trained and the district is adequately prepared to respond to and recover from these incidents. In order to respond and recover effectively, districts must focus their attention on preparedness. (Read more…)
2009-2012 Junior College Audit Report
The Junior College Audit Report (JCAR) provides key results pertaining to the safety and security audits completed by public junior college districts in Texas. The TxSSC collected specific audit information for the three year audit cycle --- September 1, 2009 to August 31, 2012 to be published in a statewide report to the Texas Legislature. The data were collected through an online reporting system, JCARtool, where designated personnel respond to questions regarding legislative mandated safety and security audit procedures and practices. Data from the JCARtool were analyzed and reported at an aggregate level. Please click here to view the finding from the JCAR.
Security Design Criteria Manual for Schools
The purpose of this reference manual is to provide school architects and school district personnel recommended criteria for constructing a secure instructional facility. The recommended criteria set forth in this reference manual are to be taken into consideration during the design process and are not meant to supersede local building codes or Texas Administrative Code Title 19, Chapter 61, Subchapter CC. Building security encompasses how assets (people, information, and property) can be protected from the effects of malevolent acts carried out by individuals or groups of individuals (violent people, criminals, extremists and terrorists).