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TEEX’s School Safety & Security Center recently completed a year-long safety initiative, Project Protect, with the Navasota Independent School District, just prior to a wildfire that broke out in Grimes County. The project, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, focused on planning, training and readiness exercises to help the school district prepare for potential disaster or school violence incidents.

Project Protect was initiated in 2006 with the Laredo Independent School District, said Kyle McNew, Training Manager with TEEX Public Safety & Security. Other school districts that have been through the sessions include Waco and Fort Worth.

Training sessions in Navasota covered threat and risk assessment, disruptive student management, drug impairment and behavior recognition and violence prevention in education, he said. Training in the incident command system was conducted by Steve Irey of TEEX Emergency Services Training Institute.

In addition, Diane Cornwell of Knowledge Engineering conducted a workshop on emergency operations planning to help teachers and school officials identify gaps in their plan and work to fix and improve the plan. Hank Lawson of Disaster Preparedness and Response conducted a tabletop exercise involving a simulated tornado that allowed them to put their Emergency Operations Plan into action.

“In Navasota, we had a good turnout for all of the activities, and they were pleased with the training,” McNew said. “We were really impressed at how well-prepared they were.”

The district’s preparations and crisis planning paid off. They got to use their training right away, McNew added. Navasota schools served as a command post and evacuation shelter for Grimes County residents fleeing the Dyer Mill wildfire that destroyed more than 30 homes and 5,200 acres in June.

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