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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2017 Vol. 64 No. 8

Preparing for a Safe and Secure 2017-2018 School Year

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Although school may have adjourned for the summer, districts should already be preparing for the new 2017-2018 school year. Summer is a great time to assess and repair school facilities like playgrounds, athletic venues and chemistry labs. Summer is also a good time to review emergency operations plans and prepare for staff and student training.

Playgrounds

School playgrounds should be inspected thoroughly. The Texas heat can crack plastic slides and swings, which could lead to an injury. Surfacing materials often decompose or are displaced during normal use, compromising the fall protection they are designed to provide. A detailed inspection should be conducted to identify any equipment or surfacing material to be replaced or repaired in order to get the playground ready for the upcoming school year.

Chemistry Labs

Chemistry labs should be thoroughly cleaned, and chemicals that are out-of-date or no longer needed should be disposed of properly. The disposal process can be costly and may require scheduling; therefore, it is important to start that process as early as possible. An inventory of all chemicals should be created or updated and shared with appropriate staff and responders for use in an emergency.

Activity Areas

Back to school also means the start of football season, band and many other extracurricular activities. An inspection of all athletic facilities and practice areas should be conducted so that repairs can be made to keep participants and spectators safe. Regular inspection of gates and emergency exits of venues are needed to ensure that large numbers of attendees can be evacuated in an emergency – keep in mind that severe weather often requires an evacuation from an event. Coordination with police, fire, EMS and other responders will also help to identify areas and plans that are in need improvement or updating.

Safety & Security Audits

Texas public school districts are required to conduct a safety and security audit of all district facilities once every three years. The current three-year audit cycle ends on August 31, 2017. Schools should use the results of their audits to identify weaknesses and make improvements to their facilities and safety processes.

Training

To prepare staff and students for the new school year, everyone needs to be aware of current safety and security procedures.  Districts should plan to deliver appropriate training to all students and staff in order to ensure that emergency plans are followed and that everyone knows their role during an emergency. This may require reviewing and updating emergency plans, replenishing emergency and first aid supplies as well as developing training and scheduling drills and exercises to test the plans.

Coordinating with law enforcement, fire departments, local, regional and state emergency management officials and being aware of available resources will help to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for students.  Please visit the Texas School Safety Center website for tools to keep schools safe and secure.

Chance Freeman
Texas School Safety Center

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