Be True to Your School: Keep It Safe and Secure.

With school starting this week in the city of Chicago, I was interviewed by Fox 32 Chicago about school security as school shootings have become part of our society as demonstrated by tragic incidents in Florida and Texas earlier this year. Some school shooters have posted material on social media websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram that in retrospect warned of trouble. Behavioral health professionals working with law enforcement, school administration, teachers, parents, and counselors can collectively assess, manage, and help individuals exhibiting signs that indicate a potential path to violence.

Since emergency events can happen anywhere, we need to be prepared to protect our schools against any type of nefarious incident, whether intentional like an armed assailant, accidental like a power loss, or natural like a weather event such as a tornado, hurricane, or snowstorm. And since most emergency plans rarely cover everything that might be required for an incident, the plan needs to be adaptable to circumstances, innovative, and, when necessary, improvisational.

Back to School
When it comes to protecting your school, now is the perfect time to evaluate and compare your policies, procedures, personnel, physical measures, technology, and training against industry best practice standards in security, safety, emergency preparedness, incident response, compliance, and legal requirements. A campus-wide security assessment can identify your current assets, staffing, and resources so that you will know if you are prepared for any emergency you might have to face.

You should also evaluate your technical security solutions to determine their effectiveness, such as closed-circuit video surveillance equipment, exterior and perimeter security systems, electronic access control systems, automated alerts, and information-sharing capabilities. Understanding your security capabilities can determine if adequate measures are in place for protection, safety, and security, if they are functioning properly, and if your staff is trained properly to operate these technologies.

Teach Your Children Well
Teaching in an academic environment is not limited to reading, writing, and arithmetic. Education in security includes awareness and education materials, as well as training initiatives to develop a multimedia approach that best meets your institutional needs. Emergency preparedness, fire prevention, and active shooter drills, among many areas, are examples of training specifically designed to enhance security and safety at your school.

All departments involved in daily school activities should work closely together to provide guidance and training in the areas considered sensitive to the well-being of students whether on- or off-campus. You can also offer presentations on subject matters such as social media etiquette, toxic relationship warning signs, and sexual assault prevention to students, teachers, staff, and parents.

Move to the Head of the Class
There is no singular solution to preventing school violence. An armed security officer and metal detectors are strong countermeasures that offer mitigation; however, other practices and procedures need to work in concert for your overall security program to be holistic. You’ll feel poised to handle threats to your school when you feel confident in your security. And you’ll feel confident in your security when you work with a security professional who can help you determine where you’re meeting industry best practices in securing campuses—and where you can enhance your current environment to reach a higher level of safety.

After you evaluate and modify your safety and security policies, processes, programs and systems, you can roll out changes immediately. Don’t wait until an incident occurs to start. You can schedule an orientation for your constituents—students, employees, contractors, visitors, and parents—and include police, fire, and other external stakeholders so you can work together and everyone understands his or her role in an emergency.

You Never Stop Learning
Training is a perishable skill and you need to keep educating yourself to stay up-to-date with emerging threat scenarios as well as the most current and innovative measures to counter these dangers. Training enables you to become familiar with individual and collective responsibilities in preventing and responding to an emergency. No single person is able to memorize every step necessary to take during a crisis; however, education, awareness, and recurring training will prepare you—mentally and physically—to respond quickly and decisively. Since most of us act—and react—differently in emergencies than under normal circumstances, training conditions people through simulated high-stress events to learn the appropriate response based on the nature of the incident.

In the event some type of incident, emergency, or other activity occurs that requires outside assistance, subject matter expertise in crisis management can provide counsel to your leaders and decision-makers for the duration of the incident. Experienced security consultants can participate as trusted advisors or active contributors, working closely with all parties including law enforcement, public relations, judiciary, media, and select stakeholders. This support ranges from preemptive to reactive, and your response can be tailored to the incident so that your programs, policies, procedures and partners will all work together to create a safer school.

We’re Here to Help
G. Michael Verden, founder and CEO of The Lake Forest Group (www.lakeforestgroup.com), is a former police officer, Director of Security for the NBA, and retired Secret Service agent with 21 years of experience protecting the President and First Lady as well as large scale events like the Super Bowl, Olympics, Inauguration, and national conventions.


Before Run, Hide, Fight: Prepare, Respond, Recover

Power in Numbers
With active threat incidents top of mind for many of us due to recent events and continuous media coverage, I contacted a select number of professionals in my network to ask for their insight on current best practices to mitigating an active threat, whether the attack came from a firearm, explosive, or vehicle.

Fortunately, my colleagues stepped up in a big way—thank you!—and I received more than 100 responses, a real testament to their dedication and professionalism. So in an effort to continually share relevant and informative content to help keep all of us safe, I have condensed, highlighted, and organized what I learned from them and now pass along their expertise. The key to mitigating an active threat comes down to three critical components: 1) Preparation, 2) Response, and 3) Recovery.

Run, Hide, Fight
Thanks to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the public is familiar with its safety recommendation of “Run, Hide, Fight.” Also the acronym “ALICE” (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) has become common language to many of our citizens. Both responses are dynamic and can save lives, which is the paramount goal of all emergency management planning. While this information is invaluable, it is not enough to craft a holistic approach. In plain language, you need to mitigate an active threat before, during, and after an incident and here’s why.

Prepare
Preparation begins with an assessment of current capabilities to determine the difference between what you have and what you need by reviewing the physical security measures, security technologies, policies and procedures, personnel numbers, emergency management documents, and incident reporting protocols to understand your level of competency. Based on this knowledge, you can make educated decisions regarding procurement as well as support to enhance areas not yet considered at a best practice level according to industry standards.

After determining the resources and skill sets internally (security, legal, emergency management, HR) and externally (police, fire, emergency medical), you can establish a training curriculum that will adequately prepare your workforce and first responders to coordinate and integrate your mitigation disciplines. Your training strategy focuses on how employee or student activities, building management, daily operations, access control, visitor management, emergency preparedness, and incident response work together to ensure safety.

Respond
Training can also teach how to integrate individual functions with multi-entity operations. You should ensure all stakeholders train to, exercise, and become familiar with response—because successful response implementation depends on the key measures necessary to mitigating casualties in the interval between the time of an attack and the point when first responders arrive on the scene. If properly identified, planned for, and practiced, the emergency medical and first aid capabilities of internal staff can also benefit your response efforts.

Response also requires a coordinated joint approach among response partners to deliver crisis information to ensure timely, accurate, accessible, and consistent communications across multiple stakeholders, to minimize confusion and dispel rumors during an incident. Messaging should take into account the challenges of your organization to ensure successful communication, including different languages spoken, hearing and visually impaired personnel, and technology used to share information. Also, you can use social media to distribute information rapidly to prevent inaccurate or misleading news.

Recover
Any emergency incident disrupts essential functions, services, and capabilities across an entire enterprise or institution. Even if the incident did not occur on your property, you can still be affected. Organizations, both government and private sector, located in and near the incident may experience disruptions of routine operations and/or loss of infrastructure or critical systems. Effective recovery planning and operations increase resiliency and ensure you can continue to provide essential functions and services after an incident.
Examples of questions you need to answer to determine your organization’s competency level for mitigating an active threat:
• Do you have memorandums of understanding (MOUs) or mutual aid agreements (MAAs) in place?
• Do your strategies align with the four phases of emergency management (prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery?
• Do you have a property-specific emergency management plan in full compliance with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS)?

We’re Here to Help
Protecting human life is the paramount goal of any active threat incident. We can work with you to construct a tailored active threat plan that addresses specific areas of concern, like an active shooter or bomb threat, and provides you with a planned response and recovery to protect against all hazards, such as accidental (chemical spill), intentional (armed assailant), or natural (weather). Emergency preparedness is a 24/7 mission and we’ll partner with you to ensure protecting your people is always your top priority.


P-L-A-N: the Four-Letter Word that Keeps You Safe    

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” may be an old saying but it’s never been more important than right now. I have found that in my experiences as a security professional a plan is at the heart of every dynamic and efficient security program. A holistic plan in its most basic form encompasses multiple entities including forecasting, collaborating, coordinating, integrating, and pooling resources. These efforts effectively produce documentation that provides direction, instruction, and metrics that need to be followed in order to implement a collectively designed strategy and course of action.

Train the Trainer

Recently, I hosted an eight-hour training workshop on workplace violence in healthcare settings. With an audience of professionals representing various backgrounds such as emergency managers, security leadership, HR managers, and emergency medical personnel from hospitals, medical centers, and clinics, the workshop shared the step-by-step strategies necessary to prepare, protect, and respond to an incident of workplace violence.

The recurring point and major takeaway of the entire workshop was today’s favorite 4-letter word—plan—and how critical it is to creating a current and diverse training curriculum. A best practice based training program combines research, collaboration, institutional knowledge, and professional experience to produce training tailored to the experience level of your employees that engages them by providing practical and hands-on tools they can implement immediately.

Are You Ready For Some Football? 

As this time of year marks the kickoff to the college and professional football season, an effective stadium security plan ensures safety when its design, creation, and implementation address four main categories:

  1. Personnel security: law enforcement, private security, ushers, bomb technicians, canine handlers, emergency medical, and fire department personnel
  2. Technologies: video surveillance, intrusion alarms, access control, X-ray screening, metal detectors, and monitoring
  3. Physical security: fencing, gates, barriers, barricades, lighting, locks, windows, and hardware
  4. Processes: security policies, operational protocols, delivery operations, parking, transportation, player/performer protection, crowd control, guest management, and emergency preparedness

Ultimately, successful stadium security planning focuses on a preventative protective security methodology that balances ends, ways, and means, using the appropriate personnel and resources to identify and assess targeted threats and create enhanced countermeasures to mitigate risk.

All Hazards Emergency Plan Covers It All

The four phases of an all hazards emergency management plan embrace a shared understanding about exactly how to address these phases and their critical emergency-related priorities. You cannot address these priorities—in fact, you cannot take a single step forward—without having a clear, comprehensive, and detailed plan tailored specifically to the circumstances of the emergency.

Should an incident occur, a plan helps individuals and organizations understand these four phases, which can prevent injuries, save lives, minimize property damage, decrease liability, and help restore operations with minimal delay:

  1. Prevention/Mitigation: preventing emergencies and mitigating the risks of their occurrence
  2. Preparedness: preparing to handle an incident
  3. Response: responding to an incident
  4. Recovery: recovering from an incident

To get a complete picture of your security profile, you should schedule a professional assessment that will evaluate the technical, physical, personnel, and procedural security measures currently in place at your organization. You’ll find out what you’re doing well and where you’re exposed to unnecessary risk as well as receive recommendations and strategic considerations with next steps to protect critical components of your business—especially your people.

We can also work with you to construct a tailored plan that addresses specific areas of concern, such as active threat, workplace violence, and executive protection, and provides you with a planned response and recovery in case the unexpected happens.

Do you have a plan or plans to protect your people, property, and assets? All plans start with an assessment to ensure your operations reflect best practices in safety, security, and emergency management and protect against all hazards, such as a weather event, accident, or intruder.

We can design a plan that’s right for your culture and, most importantly, protects your people. Contact me, Mike Verden, Owner and CEO of The Lake Forest Group, at gmv@lakeforestgroup.com or 312.515.8747 to find out more—or share this article with anyone who needs to create their plan to safeguard their business, staff, and visitors.