Upholding Campus Safety

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One of a college’s most crucial responsibilities is ensuring the security of its students, faculty and staff. It requires significant effort from public safety experts who analyze situations, develop plans, coordinate exercises and maintain constant vigilance to uphold campus safety.

Texas Southmost College (TSC) Trustees and Administration used strategy-based experience to create an interagency community-based policing methodology. This hybrid security model includes local, state, and federal law enforcement along with a private security company. The methodology includes the use of an incident command system (ICS) to organize, train, and equip all stakeholders on emergency response to the college.

To test the efficiency of communication between these entities, TSC Emergency Management Coordinator Nathan Flores led a full-scale multijurisdictional active attack exercise with surrounding local, state, and federal partner agencies. In recognition of his leadership in these exercises, Flores received the Statewide Collaborative Community Partnership Award of the School Safety Spotlight Program from the Texas School Safety Center.

“Nathan’s dedication to emergency preparedness is superlative,” said Keila Tuttle, Safety and Risk Management Director of Operations. “He strives to ensure the college and all stakeholders are prepared for any emergent situation. His level of dedication is depicted in the full-scale exercise Nathan led. He spent countless hours planning and coordinating not only the full-scale exercise but also the planning meetings with law enforcement that led to the execution of the full-scale exercise.”

“In this event, we planned to assess our communication, coordination, and incident command system, and although every agency participating has their own response plan, the goal was to assess our inter-agency response overall,” Tuttle continued.

After countless hours of gathering input from participating internal and external community partners and incorporating guidelines from the nationally recognized Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program, Flores analyzed the information and used it to develop the active attack exercise. It was a collaborative effort, beginning as a tabletop exercise involving discussions with senior agency leadership and stakeholder planning, where he collected additional information and viewpoints.

“As the emergency management coordinator, a campus-focused active attack training exercise is a transformative opportunity for like-minded internal and external stakeholders regarding the overall safety enhancement of our campus community,” Flores said. “I had the wonderful opportunity to facilitate the active attack tabletop exercise and the subsequent active attack full scale exercise which exemplify the power of a collaborative community partnership.”

“Through this exercise, both TSC and first responders gained valuable insight into the strengths and areas of improvement for all,” said TSC President Dr. Jesus Roberto Rodriguez. “The exercise made for a stronger response from the college and community in the event of a catastrophic emergency. Without our community partners dedication to the collaborative execution of this project with the college, the ‘area of improvement’ would have gone unnoticed, leaving the college vulnerable. Our response to emergencies is stronger because of the college and our partners’ efforts.”

Texas Southmost College Emergency Management Coordinator Nathan Flores chaired the roundtable discussion during the tabletop exercise (TTX) July 13, 2022. The exercise involved a diverse group of community stakeholders who participated in both the TTX and the subsequent full-scale exercise (FSE).

During the full-scale exercise (FSE) on March 1, 2023, role players from the FSE contact team represented six responding entities who engaged with the attacker. It marked the first local instance of contracted security and law enforcement personnel being integrated into such an exercise. Before the exercise, both groups had undergone Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) or similar training.

Rescue Task Force (RTF) members assembled during the full-scale exercise (FSE) on March 1, 2023, comprising law enforcement officers and paramedics. It marked the first inclusion of an RTF in such an exercise within the local area.