Schools 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." Thus, schools must take preventive safety actions to successfully fulfill their primary mission, which is educating students. These preventative measures include planning, drilling and training for a variety of emergencies.
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 to identify areas in need of improvement, clarify member roles, and improve 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 inclusion 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.
Hurricane Harvey swept our Texas coast, and as a result, affected 58 counties in the state. Consequently, the daily operations of many districts and schools were negatively impacted as a result of the storm. In order to help districts, school personnel, and students begin the recovery process, the Texas School Safety Center is compiling a list of trusted organizations and timely resources to assist our schools and communities during this difficult phase. (Read more…)
Students engage in a variety of activities during play time, lunch periods, recess hours and physical education classes at school playgrounds. The activities that occur at these playgrounds contribute to the overall academic success as well as the general wellbeing of students. Playgrounds also provide opportunities for students to interact and build good relationships with their peers outside of the classroom. Further, playgrounds provide ways for students to engage in physical activities which contribute to the physical, social, mental or cognitive development of children. Research shows that, playgrounds serve as places for learning and development and as sources of well-being and health promotion. Playgrounds, therefore, offer many opportunities for students which have wide reaching effects that extend beyond the physical boundaries of the playgrounds. (Read more…)
School officials today are more diligent and proactive than ever at assessing potential risks, threats and hazards that may be in or around their schools, athletic fields and bus routes. But one danger is often overlooked and left out of emergency assessments and plans likely because it is out of sight. Pipelines are transporting hazardous materials beneath our feet every moment of every day and if damaged or leaking, can produce a catastrophic emergency that is hard to be prepared for and places hundreds at risk. That is why the American Petroleum Institute says that schools that are located near pipelines are “high consequence areas”. How relevant is this to Texas schools? (Read more…)
Access control continues to be one of the top safety and security challenges faced by schools. Allowing unauthorized individuals access to a school or facility can compromise student and staff safety. To help reduce the occurrence of any safety incidents, this article provides guidance that schools and districts can utilize when creating and/or improving visitor management and access control procedures to promote safe, secure and healthy learning environments. (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…)
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…)
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…)
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.