The Texas School Safety Center:
Empowering Schools in Whole Community Emergency Management
Schools in Texas remain a priority for homeland security and emergency preparedness in Texas. With the continued growth of the state’s population and its subsequent impact upon both K-12 and higher education settings, schools must continue to provide a safe place for learning. The Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) at Texas State University in San Marcos was founded in 1999, and is tasked in Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code with school safety and emergency management initiatives and mandates. In addition, the Center supports Texas Homeland Security Strategy 3.2.4 OBJECTIVE 2.4: Enhance the Safety of Schools in Texas.
Toward these responsibilities, the TxSSC in conjunction with state, regional and local partners continues to refine and expand school-centered emergency preparedness activities by providing training, technical assistance, on-line tools and outreach that emphasizes school preparedness and safety. These services extend beyond traditional emergency management to include self-assessment tools for school districts and junior colleges to evaluate the physical vulnerabilities, threats and hazards that may impact campus safety, as well as to better understand the culture of respect, safety and behavior. This understanding allows schools to better develop a culture of preparedness, responsibility and empowerment for students and staff.
The core of this effort is built upon the Texas Unified School Safety Standards, based in best practices and the law. K-12 schools are encouraged to use these standards as a benchmark to advance a well prepared and protected learning environment for students and staff. The standards were developed as universally applicable criteria based upon the four phases of emergency management and are regularly reviewed with school, emergency management and law enforcement partners to ensure the continuing evolution of school safety and emergency management programs. A similar set of standards is under development for higher education.
Say What! The Texas School Safety Center sponsors conferences for school officials, law enforcement and even students. One of the most popular is the Say What! Conference. Created by young people from across Texas, Say What! stands for Students, Adults and Youth Working Hard Against Tobacco!
These efforts empower schools to address gaps, build upon promising practices and enhance comprehensive preparedness. It helps schools to develop integrated partnerships among first responders and community stakeholders as part of a comprehensive process of planning, training and exercises. It enhances communication, tactical protective action measures and functional collaboration. This whole community process allows for the appropriate integration of schools into response processes and supports the respectful integration of school resources and considerations into each community’s emergency management programs.
To facilitate school emergency management programs, the TxSSC in April will introduce a series of interactive emergency management workshops, designed to help school districts, private and charter schools develop or enhance high quality emergency plans and processes. In late 2015, the TxSSC will augment those efforts with resource mapping tools designed to help schools sustain the processes.
In addition, the TxSSC continues to offer, and expand its nationally recognized Youth Preparedness Camp. This program allows teams of youth led by an adult sponsor to receive emergency response training, community specific action planning aimed at increasing overall community resilience, and leadership development. Additionally, the TxSSC plans to develop and support expanded preparedness activities and programs that encompass students of all grade-levels and actively seeks to integrate students with disabilities and others with access and functional needs into the programs.
To learn more about Texas School Safety Center, visit the website.
Drills and Exercises are an important part of school safety as demonstrated by students at Ruth Barron Elementary School in Pflugerville ISD. Red and Green cards are used so that campus administrators can quickly determine student and staff accountability.
The Texas School Safety Center’s CERT program at Youth Preparedness Camp includes hands-on practice such as fire extinguisher training. The mission of the Youth Preparedness Camp is to increase emergency preparedness in Texas communities by providing youth with emergency response, action planning and leadership skills.