(TNS) — Planning a crisis response and reporting odd behaviors are key to preventing a crisis, according to crisis emergency coordinators and educators.
Jeb Lacey, of Victoria, president of RS Network Consulting, a crisis and emergency management company, said safety in any public places can present challenges from a safety and security standpoint. RS Network Consulting performs crisis management services for governments, school districts, universities and private-sector entities.
Public entities, such as schools and universities, have an obligation to do everything they can to ensure the safety of those who congregate there, he said.
Fortunately, Lacey said, the Texas Legislature has put effort into providing guidance and resources to schools on safety.
"School shootings, like what happened in Florida, are an absolute tragedy, but there are many hazards and threats that schools face throughout the country," he said.
Lacey, who previously lived in Florida, has family and friends still living throughout the state.
The shooting struck close to home. What happened is heartbreaking, he said.
"The most important thing is for people not to be paralyzed by fear and talk with their family and friends about being prepared for a crisis," he said.
Preparation and education are crucial to crisis response, he said. Practicing and implementing response plans - whether the entity is a school, a county government or private business - is important, he said.
"That's what we need to be doing in an absence of an emergency. The process of planning, equipping, training and practicing is an exceptionally important cycle for any entity that wants to successfully navigate a crisis situation," Lacey said.
What happened in Florida is considered a low-probability but high-consequence event, he said. When a situation like a deadly school shooting happens, the consequences are catastrophic and affect the families of victims, the school, city and state communities and even the country, he said.
Lacey pointed out a resource for Texas schools: the Texas School Safety Center, an official university-level research center at Texas State University that serves as a center with key school safety initiatives and mandates.
Kathy Martinez-Prather, the director at the Texas School Safety Center, said the center provides resources for multi-hazard situations that would affect schools, such as weather events, fires, gas leaks and an active shooter. The center also trains administrators and offers school resource standard response protocols for various scenarios. Lockdown, which is when classrooms are secured and students stay quiet in place, is one response procedure.
Prevention and warning signs, though, are key, said Martinez-Prather.
"Noticing risky behaviors in an individual or student and (telling) these types of things to law enforcement (are important)," Martinez-Prather said. "Even if you're wrong 99 percent of the cases, it only takes that one to save lives."
Martinez-Prather said the center educates schools to empower students to report risky behaviors or signs to teachers. There needs to be a whole school community of teachers, administrators and students looking out for each other, she said.
"It is a matter of life or death in a lot of cases," Martinez-Prather said.
Even though school shootings seem to be prevalent in the country, Martinez-Prather said schools are still safe.
"Schools are very safe places for children. Our major role is to continue to re-enforce these prevention practices," she said.
©2018 Victoria Advocate (Victoria, Texas)
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