TASB Risk Management Fund
INSIDERM

Prepare for Public Information Requests about Your Emergency Preparedness Program

March 13, 2013 Catherine Toohey

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Headlines such as “No Regular Emergency Drills at Some Texas Schools,” and “Some Area Schools Miss Required Safety Drills” can be devastating to school districts and cause parents to lose faith in the district’s ability to keep students safe.

In 2009, House Bill 1831 was passed to protect school emergency plans and safety audits from public scrutiny, but the bill contained a list of exceptions. Some information must be shared if requested under open records, but many districts do not collect and document some of the information. This lack of documentation can make a district appear to be unprepared for crisis situations.

The date of safety and security audits, as well as the person conducting the audit, are subject to Open Records. The public may also access information about your staff training on emergency preparedness and the district's progress on making changes.

School districts need to collect and document information relating to emergency preparedness in order to respond appropriately. Districts must release the following if requested under the open records act:

  • Information to verify that the district has established an emergency plan and determined the agencies involved in the development of the plan and the agencies coordinating with the district to respond to an emergency; 
  • Information to verify that the emergency plan was reviewed within the last 12 months, including the specific review dates;
  • Verification that the plan addresses the four phases of emergency management; prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery;
  • The types of emergency preparedness training the district has conducted, including the number of employees trained and the person who conducted the training;
  • Information to verify that each campus has conducted mandatory emergency drills and exercises in accordance with the plan and the frequency of the drills;
  • Verification that the district has established a plan for responding to a train derailment if required;
  • Verification that the district has completed a safety and security audit including the date the audit was conducted, the person conducting the audit, and the date the district presented the results of the audit to the district's board of trustees;
  • Information to verify that the district has addressed any recommendations by the district's board of trustees for improvement of the plan and determined the district's progress within the last 12 months; and
  • Information to verify that the district has established a visitor policy and identified the provisions governing access to a district building or other district property.

School districts should ensure that they are collecting and documenting all of this information so that they can respond to open records requests in a timely manner. 

Tagged: "emergency management", Safety