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In the News

Symposium shares emergency planning best practices for schools

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

The development of a school safety protocol and how its work with schools for planning, education, collaboration, communication and operational exercises was outlined by Hays County Emergency Services Director Kharley Smith at CAPCOG’s School Safety Symposium. CAPCOG also demonstrated its use-of-force simulator to school district attendees which uses mock scenarios to train officers for responding to threats inside schools.

To develop its School Safety Protocol, Hays County Emergency Management, the Sherriff’s Office, San Marcos Police Department, and San Marcos Fire Marshall’s Office collaborated with each school district in the county and launched the protocol at every campus. “It really doesn’t have to be complicated,” Smith said noting the county’s protocol briefly outlines actions for faculty, staff and students to take during all emergencies. “You have four directives that would apply to all hazards.”

The event brought together public safety agencies and school districts representatives to discuss emergency planning for school campuses by featuring Hays County’s county-wide School Safety Protocol program recently recognized by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

Hays County conducts an emergency drill at every school once a year. “We drill, we practice for muscle memory,” Smith said. During the drills, students, faculty and staff practice the protocols either a lockdown or lockout drill while public safety teams practice responding as if the incident was real. Training in tandem prepares everyone involved to know what to expect from one another during emergencies. It also builds a relationship between the first responders, students and school district personnel, Smith said. As part of the drill, emergency personnel and school district staff discuss the operation before and after the exercise to learn from each drill.

Hays County also conducts an educational campaign once a year at every campus, where they show videos and hold a general assembly for older students while teachers present the information to younger students — first through third graders. “Every year, every year, we are teaching this to the students and the first responders,” Smith said. “So the faculty, staff, and students all learn the same thing. We have trained over 300,000 people in Hays County since the program began… we have trained so much that the procedures have become common language.”

Lt. David Burns with the Hays County Sherriff’s Office also discussed the Avoid, Deny and Defend strategy or ADD, which teaches people to first attempt to avoid a shooter or threat, then attempt to deny an assailant entry into their location, and defend themselves as a last resort. The strategy is taught through Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center’s Civilian Response to Active Shooter Event Program.

> View the Hays County Emergency Services School Safety Protocol presentation.

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