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Security of ERS OnLine account information enhanced

log in screenThe Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) has enhanced the security of your account information in ERS OnLine, the online benefits management program.

To sign in, go to the ERS Web site at To view your account information and/or make changes, click on the red User Login button on the upper-right of the ERS home page. You will be asked to register your account by creating a unique Username and Password. Click on the Register button to begin the easy, step-by-step process.

Once registered, you can:

  • Update your phone number, mailing and email addresses so you can receive important information from ERS.
  • View a summary of your current benefits. Request a statement of retirement benefits, which includes information about when you can retire and an estimate of your monthly annuity benefits.
  • Update personal information for your dependents and beneficiaries.
  • Make changes during Summer Enrollment or after experiencing a qualifying life event (QLE) such as marriage or divorce. Note that a QLE must be updated in ERS OnLine within 30 days of the event.

You can also update your beneficiary information for life insurance and retirement by calling ERS Customer Service toll-free at (877) 275-4377 or in Austin at (512) 867-7711. Please have your beneficiary’s name, Social Security number, date of birth and mailing address available when you contact ERS.

After you make changes to your beneficiary information either online or with ERS Customer Service, you will receive an election form indicating your new beneficiary information. You must sign the form, have it witnessed and return it to ERS. A confirmation notice will be sent to you when the election forms are processed.

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Preparing for pandemic: TDCJ ready to act against Swine flu

By David Nelson, Board Member

portrait of David Nelson, TBCJ Board Member
David Nelson

This past spring, the H1N1 (swine) flu pandemic spread fear and hindered the operations of schools and businesses across the globe. A quick response by our state’s emergency response center and the filtering of necessary information to agencies and local government minimized the flu’s impact on Texas.

Being prepared and ready to act is essential in addressing a potential viral outbreak, particularly in a closed environment like a prison facility. In 2007, based on a model developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), TDCJ Health Services assessed the impact a pandemic flu could have on the operations of our agency and, in collaboration with the Correctional Institutions Division, developed a preparedness plan to address outbreaks. This plan lays out procedures, from preparation to outbreak including strategies such as social distancing, early recognition and isolation of suspect offender cases, medically restricting the movement of contacts, staff training and unit sanitization (hand washing and disinfection).

Under the plan, during Stage 1, which are normal living conditions, general preparation activities are underway both in the medical and security arenas. These include the continuous monitoring of notifications from the CDC and collaboration with local disaster/bioterrorism preparedness organizations. In addition, training on infection control is conducted, critical medical supplies, such as masks and gloves, are evaluated and stocked and space and staffing plans for an outbreak are assessed. At Stage 2, when a pandemic flu is recognized in the world (human-to-human transmission), the general preparation activities continue with an increased emphasis placed on staff training. Information is also circulated and prominently posted to reinforce the importance of hygiene and cough etiquette and to provide facts on the symptoms of the virus.

Once a pandemic flu is known in the United States (Stage 3), changes begin to occur with the agency’s offender management. All new intakes and offenders returning from bench warrant etc. are medically restricted in their movement, meaning that offender movement, both within and between units, is limited. Offenders are monitored for 10 days to ensure they are not carrying the virus. Limitations are also placed on staff movement, particularly those working at multiple units. Offender contact visitation is also suspended. Food and other essential unit operational supplies are stockpiled, staff is trained to screen and identify the flu symptoms and an emphasis is placed on cleaning and disinfecting heavy hand-contact areas. As the flu reaches Texas, units may be locked down. All visitation is suspended and nonessential offender work assignments and classes may be suspended as well.

Stage 4 takes effect when an initial case is identified on a unit. At this point, the unit is locked down and suspected cases are placed in medical isolation. The housing area where the case was identified is placed on movement restrictions, as are any offenders who came in contact with the ill offender. Respiratory masks are provided and required for all medical and security staff working in the medically restricted areas. Nonessential offender transportation is also discontinued. If multiple cases occur on a unit (Stage 5), all previous enacted procedures continue with infected individuals and suspected cases grouped in established, isolated medical areas on the unit. Following the onset of symptoms, individuals are able to return to general housing areas after seven days and can be considered immune for the remainder of the pandemic.

Once no new cases are seen for five days, a unit can drop back to Stage 4, and then to Stage 3 following 14 days without a new case. As the process continues and the unit returns to Stage 3, non-contact visitation can resume, however visitors are questioned and observed for symptoms before entering the unit.

Throughout the process, health services staff continuously re-evaluates the controls in place and stays abreast of recommendations from the Department of State Health Services and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to ensure TDCJ is doing everything possible to protect the public health and safety of its staff and offenders

In the United States, the H1N1 flu pandemic was relatively mild this spring. Although TDCJ had no laboratory confirmed cases of H1N1, it provided a true-to-life test for the agency’s pandemic outbreak preparedness plan. The exercise was successful and offered an excellent opportunity to work the plan and make the necessary adjustments to enhance performance.

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