During the past year, there have been many emergency incidents affecting Texas schools and other educational entities, from the wildfires in Bastrop to ice storms that affected a much larger area of central Texas. It is important to be prepared to respond effectively and work closely with local responders to ensure that incidents are managed effectively.
In Texas, school districts and community colleges must have an emergency operations plan that is coordinated with local response organizations to address the hazards they face. To best facilitate this coordination, education officials must plan and exercise alongside local agencies to ensure clear communication and understanding of each agencies’ priorities and limitations. Exercising helps to discover gaps in emergency plans so that educational entities can make needed changes and improvements. Coordinated and collaborative exercises are the difference between success and failure. The Fund can be that difference for you.
The TASB Emergency Management and School Security program is working with Fund members throughout the state to facilitate collaboration between educational institutions and their local emergency agencies. We provide member entities with training in the Incident Command System (ICS), which is mandated as our national model for responding to emergencies. Along with ICS training, we work with members and local agencies to develop tabletop exercises to test how they will collaborate in a coordinated response. A recent example of a program success occurred in Dripping Springs ISD.
Dripping Springs ISD took the bull by the horns during the 2011-12 school year, asking TASB to provide emergency preparedness training that included ICS 100 for Schools and a tabletop exercise for over 40 staff members. Through a joint effort with Hays County Emergency Management and the City of Dripping Springs, Kay Allen, emergency planner with the North Hays County Fire Department, worked closely with the TASB consultant to provide training that was inclusive of all local stakeholders. The training was attended by the Hays County emergency management coordinator, a Hays County commissioner, the local county constable, the Dripping Springs fire chief, and personnel from the local EMS provider.
Having everyone at the table is a plus, as Allen commented, “One of the most valuable aspects of the training was the exchange of information between the school district personnel and local emergency responders. Both groups learned facts about the others that they had not been aware of previously.”
The combined ICS training and tabletop exercise can be conducted in six hours and provides both the educational institution and the responders who attend the valuable experience of getting to know each other and understanding the priorities of each organization and how they can best work together. Participating in the exercise helps to ensure that all parties are on the same page in emergency preparedness.
“The table top exercises helped the school district personnel discover questions that needed to be answered in order for them to develop effective emergency response plans. The ICS 100 training was timely because it meshed with emergency planning efforts taking place in the community at large. DSISD personnel are now much better prepared to participate in that planning, as well as to cooperate in the response to an incident,” said Allen.
Dodi Guilliams of the Dripping Springs ISD Transportation Department said, “I think that [the training] definitely broadened the scope of thinking and planning when it comes to the emergency resources that are available in our community. There are so many tools out there that we just were not aware of!”
Emergency Management and School Security training not only helps educational institutions be compliant with state law, but also helps them to develop a greater understanding of how other state agencies work when responding to emergency situations. This knowledge and understanding helps to ensure a quicker and more integrated response, which can save lives and property. A collaborative foundation has been established between the school district and emergency responders and stakeholders can be assured that Dripping Springs ISD is now better equipped to integrate its emergency management efforts with the community at large, so they can work cooperatively to respond to incidents big and small.
Fund members who participate in the Auto, Liability, Property, and Workers’ Compensation programs are eligible for Emergency Management training at no additional charge as part of their membership.