Fort Bend School Districts Strive to Improve Emergency Management Capabilities

11 02 2010

My last two blog entries discussed efforts by Lamar Consolidated ISD to improve emergency preparedness efforts in its schools.  Much of LCISD’s recent efforts in emergency preparedness are a result of a grant the District received two years ago from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools; more specifically, the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grant.

 The REMS grant program provides funds for local education agencies (LEAs or school districts) to improve and strengthen their emergency management plans. The program also enables school districts to develop improved plans that address all four phases of emergency management: Prevention-Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. School districts also must commit to developing written plans that are coordinated with state Homeland Security plans, support the implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), and are designed to prepare for a possible infectious disease outbreak, such as influenza pandemic.

As a 2007 grantee, LCISD is now finishing up its grant.  And currently, Fort Bend ISD is making application hoping to be a 2010 grantee. Katy ISD was a 2009 grantee, and is moving forward with a variety of activities to improve safety and security plans.  An implementation committee has been meeting for several months.  The committee includes appropriate school officials as well as first responder agencies that provide service to Katy ISD facilities.  Because the district straddles multiple counties, Harris County representatives are part of the committee also.  Throughout 2010, Katy ISD will be revising plans and strengthening emergency management plans.

Duing the last week of  October 2009, a team of individuals representing Katy ISD attended the Multi Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools class at the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  This team of individuals included Alan Spears, Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator, Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management, as well as first responders from the Willowfork Fire Department and the Katy ISD Police Department. 

While at EMI for one week, the Katy ISD team completed ten separate units of instruction with an overall purpose of reviewing a model emergency management plan for schools and comparing it to the Katy ISD plan.  Other school district teams, from other parts of the country, were also in attendance.  The training provided an excellent opportunity for Katy ISD to review and improve their plan, while exchanging ideas on school emergency management and hazards with the other participating districts.

I am heartened to see the enthusiasm of Fort Bend school districts to improve their emergency preparedness plans.  I hope all of the districts in the county make efforts to improve emergency plans— with or without a REMS grant.  To that end, the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management is committed to working closely with all public and private schools to improve emergency preparedness.

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