Five signs your school needs a better safety program

Do your students feel safe and secure while they’re at school? The same question can be asked of your teachers, administrators and other employees who spend their workday on the school grounds. There have been enough tragedies in the news over the past few years to create an environment of concern at schools across the country. This is not a good environment in which to learn, to teach or to work.

Yet how can you be sure that your school is prepared for the possibility of an active shooter or other emergency? In reality, true readiness requires more than a single action to be taken. The best approach to take is to create a layered safety and security program covering multiple bases including prevention of risk, identification of threats, response to incidents in progress and communication with first responders. This last point is especially important, as it can greatly reduce the possibility of harm should an emergency occur.

Here are five signs that your school needs a better safety and security program.

1. You haven’t made a plan

A security program is more than just a list of technologies and tactics. No matter how good each element in the list, your population is still at great risk if you haven’t built a specific and individualized plan for your school.

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Every school has its own configuration, including the size, shape and location of the facilities, surrounding roads, infrastructure and other factors. For this reason, it is not possible to use a one-size-fits-all solution to create and maintain a secure environment on the school property.

Your plan should address both critical emergencies and basic safety and security protocols. It should also include procedures for training and testing staff and students.

2. You have no emergency alert and communications system

During an emergency, students or school personnel need to communicate as quickly as possible with first responders. The 911 system provides an alert but often falls short due to the length of time it takes for officers to reach the site of the incident.

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The best emergency alert system for schools provides abundant real-time information for first responders. Be sure to consider all the features of any system before choosing it for your school. Look for firearm detection, live access to cameras, remote door locking and other vital features.

3. You’re not running drills

Not knowing what to do or where to go during an active shooter or other emergency situation can greatly increase the negative outcomes. It’s not enough to simply give people written information or even to run through the actions once or twice. Regular drills – at least twice a year – are an essential element of your security planning program.

Drills should include lockdown procedures, situational awareness and run-hide-fight protocols, along with use of your emergency communications system. Repeating the actions they need to take will help students and staff remember what to do when it matters most.

4. You don’t have a visitor management system

No one should be on the school premises if they are not authorized to be there. The use of ID badges at school helps to ensure that every individual on the grounds and in the building has been screened and approved. The wearing of ID badges also makes it easy for students and staff to know when they see an unfamiliar face that they do not represent a threat.

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With a school visitor management system, you can check in and verify every visitor to the school. Building a custom watch list that integrates with this system enables you to flag anyone who has been identified as a potential threat, and deny them entry to the school. Automatic alerts can be sent to authorities through the visitor management system to add a layer of protection.

5. The school has no relationship with law enforcement

Your local law enforcement authorities can offer support and resources on many levels. They may even offer free and valuable advice, including helping you develop your initial security plan, managing emergencies and more.

Ideally, your emergency alert and communications system will integrate directly with a corresponding system in place in the district. This way everyone will be familiar with the software and its use, and your school can work together with responders to ensure all stakeholders are prepared. This will help minimize risk and save lives in an actual emergency situation.

In a true emergency, there is typically a great deal of chaos. At the same time, every second matters in mounting a response. By taking the necessary steps to create a robust safety and security program, you can help to minimize the negative impacts of an active shooter or other emergency event. It is never too soon to begin planning for the best possible outcome.

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