On Thursday, April 26, 2018, we hosted our second School Safety Talks webinar on crisis prevention, preparedness, and response with Paul Timm, board-certified Physical Security Professional (PSP®) and Vice President of Physical Security Services at Facility Engineering Associates. During his webinar, “A Collaborative Approach to School Safety,” Paul explained the importance of collaboration among different stakeholders, using existing resources such as social media and students’ expertise to address safety concerns, and much more. Below are a few key takeaways from his webinar.
Collaborate with all stakeholders. Nobody has shoulders broad enough to carry a security program by themselves. Security planning teams should consist of both internal and external stakeholders. This includes, but is not limited to, district and building-level administration, staff, students, first responders, local businesses, and parents. To manage emergencies, schools should comply with the Incident Command System (ICS). They need to know who will fill which roles in the event of an emergency, and there should be two backups for every role. Security planning teams should also have the entire school’s staff fill out a skills survey. This helps create an inventory of staff skills such as AED certification, bilingualism, former military experience, and possession of emergency supplies – all of which can be crucial in the event of an emergency.
Create a culture of awareness. In addition to staff training, there are many small things a school can do to shift from a “Mayberry” mentality to a “See Something, Say Something” mentality. For example, take two or three minutes at the beginning of staff meetings to talk about safety awareness skills. Project a picture of a parking lot for 10 seconds and ask staff to memorize as many details as possible and then ask them if they saw any safety concerns. How many cars were in the parking lot? Was it surrounded by a fence? How tall was the fence? Was there adequate lighting? Were there low hanging limbs or tall shrubbery that could create easy hiding spots for perpetrators? Helping everyone hone awareness skills will empower them to notice and report concerns.
Involve students in your efforts. Students know what goes on in the hallways at schools, so they are a valuable resource for safety planning. Fostering relationships with them is crucial to unlocking information that can greatly improve safety programs. As we know, students are also early adopters of new technology, including social media. Threats are often shared on social media, so it is crucial staff understand how it works. Since students are the experts, consider bringing a student into staff meetings to provide a quick tutorial of how specific social media apps work.
Harness the power of social media. Social media can be a powerful tool for school safety. For example, Twitter is a great method of mass communication. The National Weather Service or Homeland Security’s Twitter accounts give followers almost instant updates on security and emergency information.
Protect people first. There are two keys to protecting people in schools: access control and communication. For example, recess can be a vulnerable situation for schools. If the playground or blacktop does not have a fence around it, how are students protected from individuals wandering onto the playground or from a car driving onto it? Staff members should be stationed around the perimeter of the playground to supervise students as they play, and they should be equipped with two-way radios, whistles, and fanny packs stocked with first aid supplies.
Emergency preparedness is ever-changing. Schools need to prepare for crises such as active shooters and natural disasters, which includes conducting training and lockdown drills, storing emergency kits in classrooms or strategic locations around the building, uploading emergency procedures into apps so they are easily accessible, and more. However, emergency preparedness is not static. New risks arise on an ongoing basis, which makes conducting regular security assessments crucial. Walk through the halls, observe staff and students, or conduct surveys. Gather as much information as possible and assess it as a group. By working together with all stakeholders, schools can keep up with and address new risks.
Join us for our third webinar on Thursday, May 10, 2018 at 2 p.m. with Al Gille, Coordinator of Safety & Security for Great Oaks Career Campuses Al Gille. Register here.