TEA News Releases Online Oct. 24, 2013
Texas Safe Schools Week: Emergency preparedness key to campus safety
AUSTIN - As part of Texas Safe Schools Week (Oct. 20-26), the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) at Texas State University and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) today joined to stress to districts and charters that the safety and security of students and staff in our schools depends on everyone knowing what, when, where and how to act before an emergency occurs.
To help spotlight the importance of preparedness, Commissioner of Education Michael Williams and TxSSC Director Dr. Victoria Calder observed an evacuation drill at Ruth Barron Elementary School in the Pflugerville Independent School District (PISD). Commissioner Williams, Dr. Calder and PISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alex Torrez watched as the more than 700 students evacuated their campus building in less than 10 minutes in a safety exercise required on all campuses during the school year.
"Regardless of the amount of time and effort spent on emergency preparedness for our schools, the plan is only as good as the ability of students, faculty and staff to execute it," said Dr. Calder. "Following the plan requires a quick but careful assessment of the situation and a practiced decision as to the best action to take. When everyone on campus has practiced the plan, they are ready to make effective decisions. With good training, everyone involved will respond appropriately within seconds."
"Safety drills conducted on our campuses throughout the school year are essential in assuring students, teachers, administrators and staff are prepared," said Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. "There should be no doubt that emergency preparedness is taken seriously in every school district and every campus across our state."
Dr. Calder and Commissioner Williams noted that conducting drills strengthens schools to better prevent, mitigate, prepare for and recover from a variety of incidents. During the course of a school year, campuses should ensure that they have conducted monthly drills that include: evacuation; reverse evacuation; severe weather; shelter in place; and lockdown.
In planning drills, each school district should examine the hazards inherent to their region and ensure that their planning and practice drills reflect those risks. All students and staff members should be involved in drills. Drills are most effective when they are followed by feedback from students, staff, administrators and first responders so that lessons learned can be used to strengthen plans and procedures.
"We know that above all else, students must feel safe at school before they can be receptive to learning," said PISD Superintendent Torrez. "It is critical for both students and staff members to know how to react when an emergency occurs on campus, and regularly conducting safety drills is a key component of our overall preparedness for any type of campus crisis."
On its website, the Texas School Safety Center has extensive drill guidance, aids and resources available to school districts regarding emergency preparedness and emergency management. These resources can be found at http://txssc.txstate.edu/topics/emergency-management/.
Texas Safe Schools Week is held annually in conjunction with the national America's Safe Schools Week. To read the Governor's Safe School Week proclamation, the joint Texas Education Agency-Texas School Safety Center proclamation or to learn more about Texas Safe Schools Week topics, visit the Texas Education Agency website at www.tea.state.tx.us or the Texas School Safety Center website at http://txssc.txstate.edu/.
# # #