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.