Correctional officials from across the country recently gathered at the Correctional Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University to learn incident command and emergency preparedness skills to deal with crises ranging from daily issues to large scale disasters in their institutions.
The 36-hour program, sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections, provided classroom and hands-on instruction on the methods, practices, procedures, and systems needed to manage crises in correctional facilities.
Coordinated with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) for use in disasters, the program is the only one in the country to adapt the national model to correctional settings, which can be applied to simple crises such as medical calls on a unit to complex disasters such as a full scale riot or a major weather event threatening facilities.
Two-member teams from state correctional agencies in Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Maine, Louisiana, Arizona, California, Iowa, Washington, and South Dakota, as well as six representatives from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, were able to test the procedures in the Incident Command Simulation Training Suite at the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. The state-of-the-art facility allows simulations of real life events using the incident command model.
After touring TDCJ’s Wynne Unit to observe a critical incident simulation and gain an idea of the layout of the facility, participants re-enacted many of the scenarios that occurred during tropical storm Allison, adding the transfer of 600 inmates from a coastal prison to the mix.
Jennifer Stanwick, associate warden in the South Dakota Department of Corrections, said the program showed her how to replicate large-scale disasters in a small, controlled environment. It will help provide better planning and deployment in her three, which are located 400 miles apart.
While the program focuses on corrections, with scenarios based on correctional facilities and industry-specific issues, it aligns with the NIMS, a model used by law enforcement, fire service, public health, medical facilities, and public utility companies, in response to natural or man-made disasters.
In addition to preparing for crises, the program helps contribute to officer safety, security within the institution, staff development and better employee relations.
“We want to present this model to other agencies in hopes that they will use it,” said Tony Stines, of the National Institute of Corrections. “It will aid them in managing any incident.”