Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

A Practical and Effective Approach to Safety

Posted by Rachael Ballard Filed under: *Hot Topics*, Crisis Response, Programs, Student Violence, Student Well-Being

On Thursday, May 10, 2018, we hosted our third School Safety Talks webinar on crisis prevention, preparedness, and response with Al Gille, the Coordinator of Safety and Security at Great Oaks Career Campuses. During his webinar, “A Practical and Effective Approach to Safety,” Al outlined specific tactics Great Oaks Career Campuses uses to prevent, prepare, respond to, recover from, and mitigate crises. Below are a few key takeaways from his webinar.

Understand the crises to which your district is prone. The federal government breaks crises into three categories: natural events, technological events, and adversarial events – and sometimes they overlap. The impact these events can have on a school also fall into three categories: physical impact on humans or emotions, impact to property and financial impacts. Don’t forget to consider the scope of the impact, too. Al recommends conducting a risk assessment to determine the most and least probable risks, and the most and least harmful risks to determine where they should start planning. While all harmful risks should be addressed, developing safety plans and programs starting with the most likely to occur seems to provide for safer schools.

Take a five-step approach to creating safety programs. Any safety program Al develops addresses these five considerations: Preparedness/Prevention, Protection, Response, Recovery, and Mitigation. Since active shooter situations are unfortunately top of mind for schools, his webinar explained how to use the five-step approach to make a safety plan for an active shooter situation.

1. Preparedness/Prevention. This is arguably the biggest part of any safety program. Great Oaks uses a combination of practices and tools.

  • Deploy online training to staff via PublicSchoolWORKS in September, which sets the stage for further active shooter response training called “A.L.i.C.E.” which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate
  • Cooperate with local authorities to conduct routine lockdown drills and active shooter drills
  • Schedule drill reminders from PublicSchoolWORKS Compliance Task Management System
  • Digitize emergency flip charts, plans, and campus floor plans and aerial shots using NaviGate Prepared
  • Foster close relationships with students to keep a pulse on student behavior
  • Report and investigate all suspicious activity or rumors

2. Protection. Great Oaks takes a layered approach to protection. Starting with the outside, Great Oaks gates the perimeter of their campuses, installs physical barriers such as cement posts to prevent people from driving up to a building, and ensures ample lighting in parking lots. Buildings have a single point of entry for visitors, access control using electronic locks for staff, a panic and lockdown button in each building’s main office reception areas, locked classroom doors, and security cameras.

3. Response. A school’s response is only as good as its preparation. Most active shooter situations last between five and seven minutes. This is when people will decide between the courses of action – fight, flight, or freeze. Having effective prevention and preparedness initiatives helps staff to immediately act in the event of a crisis.

4. Recovery. This step should include plans for how to treat the injured, how to enact a reunification plan so students can get to a safe place and connect with their families as soon as possible, and a plan for how to communicate the details of an event with the media. It should also include a plan for returning back to school. This includes abbreviated school hours; plans for where to place memorials, how long they will remain, and who will take them down; and how schools will accommodate student and staff needs for counseling.

5. Mitigation. Schools and districts must evaluate how they handled the event, including if staff and students were prepared, if their response mitigated the most danger and casualties, and if there are any additional preventative measures that can be implemented.

To view a recording of Al’s webinar and to stay updated on upcoming School Safety Talks webinars, visit

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