In the September 20th edition of InstantnewsKaty.com, John Pape reports on the efforts of Katy ISD to prepare for future emergency situations affecting schools in its district. As reported:
Emergency personnel from Katy and the surrounding areas, along with administrators from Katy ISD, will hold a full-scale mock exercise on Monday, Oct. 11. Designed to simulate an actual emergency, the goal of the exercise is to improve response plans and rehearse response operations for both the school district and area emergency responders. More than 100 area emergency responders will be involved in the exercise.
Participants will include Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital, Christus St. Catherine Hospital, Methodist West Houston Hospital, Willow Fork Fire Department, Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Texas Children’s Hospital – West Campus, West I-10 Fire Department and EMS, Community Fire Department, Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management, SETRAC, Harris County’s Constable’s Office – Precinct 5, Harris County Sheriff’s Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, and Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office will be involved in the event.
Additionally, more than 150 Katy ISD students and parents from the district’s high schools and numerous staff will also participate in the mock exercise, which is expected to last most of the day. John Bremer, emergency management coordinator for Katy ISD said the effort will help strengthen existing ties between the school district and emergency personnel. “The emergency responders that are participating service one or more schools in the district. We already have an established relationship with them and have worked with them on a variety of emergency situations, although none of this magnitude,” Bremer said.
Eric Bank, EMS assistant chief for the West I-10 Fire Department, will serve as lead community partner representative for the exercise. He called the benefits to emergency responders “great.” “A large scale drill of this magnitude is extremely important to test local and regional response systems,” Bank said. “The value of this training is not only in the process, but through the actual lessons learned through planning and participation.”
Bremer and Bank also stressed to parents and the greater Katy community that the exercise is just a drill and there is no need to panic if they come across road closures, hear sirens or see fire and medical personnel en route to a campus or campuses. Since Oct. 11 is also a district-wide student holiday, the only students involved in the exercise are a select group of volunteers to serve as actors.
This exercise is funded in part by a Readiness and Emergency Management in Schools Grant administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Katy ISD applied for the grant last year and received funding in August 2009. The effort is intended to improve safety and security at the district’s 52 campuses and private schools in the Katy area, as well as 15 support facilities. Like all federal grants, REMS money must be used for projects approved specifically in the grant application. Projects designated in the grant application must be completed by the end of January 2011.
Bremer stated, to date, the grant money has allowed his department to update the district and individual campus emergency operations plans, provide additional safety and security training to staff and provide updated and interoperable emergency communications equipment, weather radios and lightning meters for each campus. Additionally, Bremer was able to purchase supplies for emergency “go-kits” for each of the 4,182 classrooms in Katy ISD.