Sharing information for a safer Texas: TDCJ's Emergency Action Center.

Author:Miller, Debra T.
Position:CT FEATURE - Texas Department of Criminal Justice

A 4 a.m. call from the warden at a secure state correctional facility informs the Emergency Action Center (EAC) that there has been an escape. With that single call, key administrative and security personnel from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) are contacted, a command center is established and vital information on the incident is recorded. Thirty minutes later another call comes in, this one from the governor's Division of Emergency Management in Austin, Texas. It informs the agency that the hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico is intensifying and evacuation of prisons along the coast may be necessary. So begins the day in EAC.

Critical incidents are inherent in the correctional setting. Public, staff and offender safety are always at the forefront of correctional administration decisions. How quickly the right personnel are notified and action is taken is critical to successfully controlling a situation. EAC focuses on minimizing risks associated with serious and unusual incidents through the sharing of crucial information. It maintains a 24-hour communications link between the executive administration staff with operating responsibility, the correctional facility/department staff, Texas Board of Criminal Justice (the governing body for TDCJ), and other state and federal agencies. This information management process disseminates essential information in an effective and timely manner, providing real-time reporting of what is occurring at secure facilities. It provides regional directors, deputy directors and the prison director with a fluid communication tool for disseminating information to staff, setting expectations and guaranteeing accountability regarding the many critical incidents that occur daily in correctional facilities.

Reporting Requirements

All units, except local probation facilities, are required to report incidents to EAC as soon as possible, but no later than three hours from the time the incident occurred or when unit administration becomes aware that a reportable incident has occurred. The unit has an additional three hours to submit a written summary of the incident to EAC. Following the guidelines set forth in the EAC Notification Handbook, EAC staff then decide who should be notified. Incidents that require immediate notification of the executive director, division directors, deputy directors, appropriate regional directors or department personnel include offender escapes, homicides, hostage situations...

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