How Safe Is Your School? Security 101

While fall ushers in Indian summer, football season, and autumn leaves, it also means back to school for millions of students everywhere. Mixed into the list of school essentials like laptops, backpacks, and books is the need for security measures that safeguard the administrators, teachers, and children who spend most of their day in a scholastic setting. Since recent history has unfortunately shown us that tragic events can occur on any size campus—from universities like Virginia Tech to high schools like Columbine to elementary schools like Sandy Hook—we need to be prepared to mitigate the situations that threaten our schools and the people in them.

You Can Increase Security through Education, Awareness, and Training    

The educational environment is a unique culture distinguished by above-average attrition (e.g., students, faculty), high visitor volume (e.g., substitute teachers, parents), open settings (e.g., playgrounds, courtyards), and long hours of operation (e.g., day and night classes, extracurricular activities). While protecting people, property, and assets based on these dynamics is a formidable challenge, you can control risk through education, awareness, and training. Because your security is only as good as the consciousness of the constituents who occupy the venue on a daily basis, the best way to raise their security and safety acumen is by creating and maintaining a continuously updated education, awareness, and training program built by best practices and industry benchmarking.

It’s Time to Hit the Books to Build Your Security Program

So, what should go into your education, awareness, and training program? Start with training on: emergency evacuation, shelter-in-place, campus lockdowns, and active shooter. Then move to awareness material that focuses on visitor registration, restricted access, parking requirements, prohibited items, and student drop-off and pick-up. And round it up with educational content that offers information on drug and alcohol abuse, workplace violence, sexual harassment, and suicide prevention. One of the goals of your program is to stay up-to-date on emerging threats and concerns related to your institution, which can only be accomplished by continuous reading, research, and networking with experts in these fields.

Use All Your Resources to Support Safety in School

Technical security solutions such as closed-circuit television, automated access control, intrusion detection, emergency notification, and panic alarms should also be incorporated into safeguarding a school property. These systems working in combination with security-related policies, procedures, processes, personnel, and physical standards will produce the desired outcome—an integration of protective measures resulting in a holistic security posture. Not only is it essential to have all of these recommended security features, but it is also equally important that the appropriate people are properly trained on their use.        

Work with a Partner to Create Safe Schools All Year Long

You’ll feel confident to handle threats to your school when you feel confident in your plan. And creating an effective plan takes time. Start by identifying a security professional with experience in securing campuses and adapting best practices to your specific location. Of course summertime is the perfect time to evaluate and modify all of your safety and security policies, processes, programs and systems so you can roll out any changes when the school year begins. But you shouldn’t wait until next year to start your plan. You can schedule an orientation for your students and employees and inform parents, police, fire, and other external stakeholders whenever it feels right. Security is a 24/7 undertaking and your commitment to learning, teaching, training, and awareness should always be in session.


Stopping an Active Shooter Is More Than Run, Hide, Fight

Unfortunately, our country continues to be plagued by horrific active shooter incidents such as what occurred at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport last week as we remember those who lost their lives or were injured in the attack. Because of the constant reoccurrence of these tragedies, the Department of Homeland Security created the action phrase  ̶ ̶  Run, Hide, Fight. These instructions have become almost instinctive and such a key part of our culture that under extreme duress, such as an active shooter incident, ordinary citizens know how to react appropriately. And this knowledge of what to do will hopefully save their lives and possibly the lives of others.

Although I acknowledge the importance of Run, Hide, Fight, I also understand how much more needs to be considered in order to protect ourselves against an active shooter. Run, Hide, Fight instructs us primarily on what to do during an incident, but what also needs to be taught is how to prevent the incident from occurring in the first place. The year 2017 offers us an opportunity to pause, reassess, and look at two critical elements associated with active shooters—cause and mitigation.

Starting at the Beginning Is a Good Place to Start

After an active shooter incident occurs, the post-incident investigation traces the history of the shooter to determine possible association to the victims and the scene of the crime and often reveals a number of clues that show the active shooter was on a pathway to violence. Some of these warning signs include inappropriate posts or disturbing videos on social media, violent outbursts, threatening comments, and dramatic changes in appearance.

Because each of these incidents needs to stand on its own, we don’t have a universally accepted profile to identify a potential active shooter—so having the preventative strategies in place before an incident offers one key measure to mitigating it. If you know what indicators to look for and have access to professional assistance, such as mental health services, you may be able to determine if intervention is necessary. Any of these signs could be an indication of a much more serious problem that may require identification, assessment, and management of a potential violent situation by a team of professionals with a diverse skill set.

Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail  

So far, I’ve talked about what to do during an active shooter scenario (run, hide, fight) and the actions to take to prevent irregular behavior (identify, assess, manage) from deteriorating into an act of violence. A holistic strategy will feature all of these recommendations along with a number of other preventative disciplines in order to deter, delay, or deny the possible occurrence of an active shooter incident.

You can help to efficiently and effectively ensure safety and security with the proper planning, awareness, education and training necessary to respond to an active shooter. And the best way to implement these measures is to capture the essential processes in an Active Shooter Plan. The plan needs to be adaptable to circumstances, innovative, and, when necessary, improvisational and ideally prepares everyone for all hazards—natural, accidental, and intentional.

One Is the Loneliest Number  

A site-specific Active Shooter Plan, such as for a commercial property or higher education campus, is not created by one person, or even a small group of people. In other words, your plan isn’t written in a vacuum. A multi-disciplinary approach is required and demands collaboration between internal and external stakeholders that are invested in the process. Individuals with diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and experience can come together and work side-by-side to design a plan to mitigate this threat. In-house staff can include security, legal, HR, facilities, maintenance, and emergency management while outside constituents are typically contract security, law enforcement, fire department, medical, and local emergency managers.


Welcome To Safe University (SAFE U)!

YOUR PARTNER IN CAMPUS SECURITY

Safe UniversityWhen the safety of your people is one of your top priorities and your college’s reputation is one of your most valuable assets, you’ll do whatever it takes to provide a safe environment for your students, staff, and visitors. High profile incidents such as mass shootings and sexual attacks at several universities have put the topic of campus crime in the public eye today more than ever before.

Conscientious and well-informed university personnel know that adequate staffing, multi-disciplinary involvement, sufficient resources, appropriate policies, and external support make these incidents less likely to occur—and make leaders more prepared if they do. Safe University (Safe U) partners with you to supplement and enhance your existing security programs by tailoring best practices to your unique situation and campus culture

HOW SAFE U BENEFITS YOUR SCHOOL AND YOUR PEOPLE
Safe U partners with you to create a safe campus environment by ensuring current policies, procedures, personnel, physical measures, technology, and training are at an industry best practice level. Through coordination and integration for preventative security, emergency preparedness, and incident response, Safe U identifies the steps necessary to ensure that students, faculty, visitors, family members, guests, and friends are not exposed to harm.
Our Safe U program specifically tailors best practices in these areas to your unique environment:
• Processes: policies, procedures, plans, and programs
• Personnel: management, police, public safety, and security
• Technology: cameras, access control, alarms, notifications, and call/assistance station boxes
• Emergency preparedness: weather, fire, power, and intruder
• Education awareness and training: classes, exercises, and web-based
• Event planning and management: school-sponsored functions
• Background screening and drug testing: scope, pre- and post-employment
• Physical security: fences, gates, barriers, lighting, and locks
• Regulatory compliance: Title IX, Violence Against Women Act, and Clery Act
PROTECT YOUR PEOPLE, CAMPUS AND BRAND BY BENCHMARKING WITH THE BEST

Studies show that although 86% of higher educational schools have an emergency operations plan, more than 1 in 4 have not had a hazard and vulnerability assessment to develop appropriate all-hazard emergency planning. We’ll share with you knowledge gained from safeguarding global corporations, high profile individuals, major events, and campuses around the country to protect what’s most important.

ADD ANOTHER LAYER OF SAFETY THROUGH SAFE U’S OBJECTIVE REVIEW

By providing objectivity through an independent analysis of your current resources, Safe U ensures a holistic security strategy by sharing the extensive expertise of our team. G. Michael Verden, CEO and Owner of The Lake Forest Group, is a global security expert with a distinguished 21-year career with the United States Secret Service. As a Special Agent, he served on the Presidential Protective Division, Dignitary Protective Division, and Counter Assault Team and assisted in the security and protection of facilities and people for major events, including the Olympics, Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, Indianapolis 500, and the Women’s Soccer World Cup, among others. As Director of Security for the NBA, he supervised security for the NBA All-Star Game, NBA Finals, and World Basketball Championships. Mike will personally guide the Safe U program to assess and evaluate your current security needs and provide options to optimize your strategic security plan and emergency management plan.


What Is the Best Way to Stop an Active Shooter?

Unfortunately, our country continues to be plagued by tragedies caused by individuals with unregulated access to firearms. What compounds this serious issue is the deadly consequences created by a society that allows people without the legal authority or proper mental capacity to possess weapons. There is no silver bullet or panacea to stem the tide of these horrific events that are occurring all too often, but we can take steps to create a safer environment.

An all-inclusive approach that cuts to the heart of this problem and attacks the genesis of these events is required, rather than responding to the aftermath of the event itself. Instead of focusing most of our attention, energy, and efforts on what can be done to stop an active shooter during one of these attacks, let’s step back and try to determine what caused the incident in the first place.

It All Begins at the Beginning

Your goal should be to identify individuals before they have the means, mindset, and motive to carry out their violence. These events are not spontaneous—people don’t just “snap” and set out on a killing spree. Instead they are premeditated, planned, and if you look closely enough, announced. Having your organization supported by policy is the foundation to an Active Shooter Plan. You need to have the capability to identify, assess, and control anyone exhibiting traits that can be categorized as pre-attack indicators, which without intervention could manifest into violence.

Horizontally, Vertically, and Across an Organization

“Power in numbers” is another remedial action that results in a multi-disciplinary approach with select people up, down, and parallel in your organization, designated to prevent active shooter incidents. Individuals with diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and experience will come together and work collaboratively to design a plan to mitigate this threat. After forming a committee of representatives from entities such as management, law enforcement security, medical, mental health, fire, legal, HR, and training, this group will be charged with the mission to collectively develop a strategy and processes for preventing, controlling, and resolving an active shooter scenario.

Addressing Workplace Violence Protects Against an Active Shooter

Because an active shooter event is the most serious form of workplace violence, you must focus on mitigation and creating the processes that prevent any behavior deemed irregular or inappropriate from occurring. To be adequately prepared, you need to direct your attention to security, personnel, policies, procedures, systems, and physical measures. Examples are private guards (security), clinical health professionals (personnel), code of conduct (policies), employee assistance program (procedures), blast text messaging (systems), and lock-operated access points (physical measures). All of these disciplines contribute to the framework of the plan.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

Because each situation is unique, knowing the signs to look for using professional judgment or outside assistance may be necessary to determine if intervention is necessary. Some of these signs are: disruptive behavior; physical injuries; absenteeism or tardiness; poor job performance; stalking a co-worker; inappropriate comments; threatening emails; and harassing phone calls. All of these signs could be an indication of a much more serious problem that may require identifying, assessing, and managing a potential violent situation.

Out With the Old and In With the New

The antiquated way to deal with a problem was to remove it. History has taught us that eliminating the source does not resolve the issue. It used to be that workplace managers fired, police officers arrested, and school principals expelled. None of these actions puts an end to the threat; they just delay it. Eventually, people get out of jail or return to the workplace or school to bring closure for themselves. Your best remedy is to have mechanisms that not only prevent, but also treat.

All of these recommended measures that I’ve presented have to be created, implemented, and when necessary, applied. Until then, a truly holistic program is not in place to protect your most valuable assets—your people—against the threat of an active shooter.