In an effort to be proactive in keeping the students of Harris County safe and secure the Common Response Task Force was created. Superintendents, assistant superintendents, and principals representing all 26 school districts in Harris County as well as representatives from business, industry and healthcare met with officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and local law enforcement.
The Task Force identified key terminology to be used by the school districts and law enforcement when communicating with the public during emergency events. In times of catastrophic events, common terminology is extremely importance in helping to alleviate confusion.
Six key terms were defined as follows:
Shelter in place
This procedure may be implemented when a situation, other than weather, that may be a hazard to health or is life threatening. It is safer to keep the students inside the building rather than expose them to possible harm by allowing them to leave the building therefore:
- All windows and doors will be locked
- The air conditioning system will be shut down
- No one will be allowed to enter or leave a building
- Parents will not be able to pick up children from school
Once the "ALL CLEAR" is given, students and teachers will return to their regular activities or a parent/student reunification (student pickup) program may be initiated. If a school is sheltering in place, parents should also shelter in place at home.
Shelter in place, Weather Only
This procedure may be implemented when weather conditions exist that may place a school or schools in immediate danger, the following will occur:
- Students and staff will be sheltered inside buildings away from outside windows or doors
- Buildings will be open for entry only
- No one may exit until the "ALL CLEAR" is given
When the "ALL CLEAR" is given, normal activities may resume or a parent/student reunification (student pickup) program may be initiated.
When an intruder invades the premises or there is an imminent danger to the campus lockdown procedures may be implemented. During lockdown:
- All doors, windows, and classrooms will be locked
- Students and teachers will remain in their classrooms
- No one will be allowed to enter or leave the building
- Parents will not be allowed to pick up children from school
- Local authorities will provide assistance, if needed
Once the "ALL CLEAR" is given, students and teachers will return to their regular activities or the parent/student reunification (student pickup) process will go into effect.
The Task force defined it as it is defined by Federal law. Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)
According to the FBI, weapons of mass destruction may be simply defined as:
- Destructive devices
- Chemical weapons
- Biological weapons
- Nuclear/radiological weapons
When emergency personnel report that the danger or threat has passed and the area is safe for children and parents, reunification procedures will be initiated. The district/school will identify the locations, time and checkout process for parents to pick up children. The district website will be one of the tools used to communicate instructions with parents.