For many parents, teachers, and students right now, anxiety about the global Covid-19 pandemic has eclipsed other worries about the risks related to going to school each day. Whether you are learning and teaching remotely or attending school in an actual facility – or dealing with having kids at home all day while juggling other jobs – for the most part, school shootings may not be the biggest school-related concern on your mind at this moment. However, there will come at time once again when students and teachers will be back in their classrooms every school day. If we are fortunate, it will be within the 2020-2021 school year; if not, students will surely be back in class by Fall 2021. When that time comes, we will once again have to consider the possibility that another school shooting will occur.
Most Americans are aware of the most highly publicized incidents that have occurred in the years since Columbine, when mass shootings at school reached our consciousness. News stories of similar incidents with significant loss of life have since become a tragic media staple. However, the data on school shootings includes dozens of firearm deaths that happen on school property and never go beyond small local news stories. Every one of these incidents is tragic to the people whose lives it destroys.
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It is essential to take every step possible to prevent a school shooting. There has, and will continue to be, much discussion of how to handle kids who demonstrate mental or emotional issues, what kind of police or security presence should be on school premises, and whether teachers should be armed. With all of that, there are many additional tactics that can and should be used by all schools that will help to prepare for and prevent harm.
Building an active shooter security plan requires a layered security program. This includes risk prevention, identification of threats, response to incidents in progress and communication with first responders. One of the key elements of this program is the deployment of an emergency alert and communications system. When a shooter is on school premises, first responders need information fast. Poor communications magnifies the potential for injury and loss of life. Officers need to know where the shooter is located, right down to the building, floor and room. They need to know which door to use to get them where they’re going the fastest.
Every school should have an emergency system in place to enable fast and seamless notification and communications with local police departments. There are many such systems on the market today, so making the right choice can be confusing. To find the best alert and communication system for schools, look for these features:
Your emergency alert and communications system should integrate directly with a corresponding system in place in your local police agency. 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 properly trained in its use. This will help minimize risk and save lives in an actual emergency situation.
Creating a safer space at school will also have the benefit of providing greater peace of mind for students, teachers, staff and parents. When students and teachers feel more confident of their security, they are free to focus on teaching and learning. Discover nine additional steps you can take to fully prepare your school for the possibility of risk. By implementing all ten, you can take meaningful action by helping to keep students, staff, and visitors safe while at school, and by creating a better environment for learning.