A school is a place of learning and should be a place where the students and teachers feel safe and secure. Only peaceful and calm school premises will help to foster learning. However, today, with several incidents of school-related violence and tragedies, the school ambiance has been threatened severely.
In response to these events, unfortunately, schools just purchase trendy high-technology equipment to ramp up the school security. Instead of spending the valuable resources of the school, it is essential to take a thorough approach to school security and this is where DMAC Security can play an important role in making your school more safe and secure.
DMAC Security has identified some of the areas that must be tackled which can help to reduce any school security risks effectively.
1. Better School Management
Schools have become extremely adept and effective in running and managing safety programs. Be it for fire-related or natural-disaster-related emergencies, most schools have excellent disaster management plans, which include the actions that the staff must take, as well as the students. These actions include clear procedures and roles that are practiced regularly and are available in a documented written format.
However, most schools lack the level of preparedness required when it comes to school security. A complete and comprehensive security plan is the foundation of any good security program. The plan must be captured in a document that details all the threats, procedures, assets, hardware, etc. All the people in the school i.e. administrators, staff and teachers should be knowledgeable about the content of the document and also understand their roles and duties. There should be a well-defined plan and the individuals responsible for the plan must be accountable for the effectiveness of the plan.
Usually, all school security programs are developed with the key purpose of protecting the assets and while the security plan is being developed, the following question must be asked and addressed. What assets will the security plan protect? Assets can be various things such as:
- People i.e. staff, teachers, students and visitors
- Facilities i.e. school buildings, premises, supplies, furniture and equipment
- Information i.e. files and records
All the assets of the school must be identified, as well as prioritized, with the students taking highest priority while the school facilities can be listed at a lower priority. While list of assets is being drafted and prioritized, all the people who are concerned with the security program and are affected by it must be consulted.
3. Understand Security Threats
Next, the treats to the assets that have been identified above must be listed. Threats are essentially the individuals which the security program should protect the school against and the threats can be external or internal. Some possible threats could be disgruntled students, teachers, staff, community offenders and or even family members of any of the former individuals.
When the threats are identified, they must be described accurately including the number of individuals, characteristics and behaviors of the individuals, the level of threat, etc. and these threat descriptions can be developed by using different sources such as demographic data, incident logs, police registrations, etc. All the information must be collected from all possible sources and a comprehensive threat list must be developed.
The most fundamental aspect and the objective of any security program is to prevent any security incident from occurring. High visibility can act as a deterrent. Well-placed signs can help to attract the attention of people to the security features. Proper lighting can remove dark areas which can act as places for hiding. Escorts and guards can help to prevent people present on the school premises from becoming easy targets. By making the security aspects in the school very visible, you can prevent any security threats.
Detection, response and delay are the three key components of any security system. But response and delay are dependent mainly on detection. Successful detection needs two steps. Firstly, there must be a signal indicating the occurrence of a security incident and an alarm should be sounded. And, once there is an alarm, the source of the alarm should be identified and assessed. For instance, if a door is opened, the sensor will trigger an alarm, which can be assessed either by a respondent who is present on site or via CCTV remotely.
Security systems generally operate in two modes – daytime while the school is open and at night when the school is closed. And, although the security system may use different methods, it must be equally effective in detecting an incident, both, in the day as well as night.
This is not just to do with doors and locks but also other aspects of the construction such as the glazing, hinges, etc. A list of all the interior doors must be made and the doors must be identified by allocating numbers. Next, the list must mention the use of the room such as teaching, utility, administrative, etc. and finally, the function of the room must be listed such as classroom, library, lab, etc. A simple bolt located on the door can help the teacher secure the classroom from within to prevent violence occurring from one room to another.
7. Quick Security Responses
This is how quickly the security arrives at the school campus in case of an incident. As a rule of thumb, from when an alarm is raised, the 1st responder should act within two minutes. The law enforcement agency usually responds within 15 minutes. However, in the meantime, the security on the school campus must be ready and respond to the alarm quickly.
The school security policy and training should include the following:
- What training do the security people have and what can they do such as assessing the situation, stop the incident from escalating, etc.?
- Do the security personnel make use of physical force in order to interrupt or stop any altercation?
- Are the security personnel armed and do they have the capability of using deadly force in order to protect the students, faculty and themselves?
The list of numbers of the law enforcement agency must be posted near all telephones and the school must liaison with the police regularly so that they have knowledge of the status of the school enrolments, facilities and incidents.
This essentially involves the actions post the occurrence of any incident or in the case of a long-drawn incident like a hostage situation. In the case of a long-drawn incident, an emergency management center must be set up to handle the situation and the people in charge should be familiar with the school and the surrounding areas.
The facility map and floor plan of the school showing the location of all the windows, doors, etc. should be kept handy. Other important information like stairwells, telephones along with the numbers, HVAC controls, lighting panels, gas lines, fire panels, etc. must also be noted.
A video walk through of the school campus along with the offices, hallways, etc. can be extremely helpful for cognitive orientation. All this information must be stored at an alternative location, not on the school campus and should be easily accessible.
9. Briefings and Drills
Having regular security awareness briefings, trainings and security drills for the students, teachers and staff can help to prepare them before the occurrence of any incident and these programs should be a regular part of the school life. There should be signages put up in the school’s hallways to act as reminders of what should be done when there are unlocked doors, strangers in the school, etc. In such cases, the security personnel should be notified promptly, who can address the issues and prevent any serious occurrences.
School Security drills must be practiced in the school regularly and both the staff and the students must know their respective roles. The staff and students must be taught that in the case of a security incident, they must remain inside the room and in an orderly manner, they must move away from the doors and the teacher must lock the doors.
10. Prioritization of Risk
Usually, schools are governed by tight budgets and so, the funds must be spent wisely such that security and risk are balanced and the risk must not only be balanced across the school facilities but also across the geographical area. Just having security guards and gadgets do not reduce risk, a disciplined security program is needed which involves all the components of “management, deterrence, detection, delay, response and mitigation”, which must be tested, measured and drilled. The funding must be allocated in a way so that there is an improvement in the specific school or the district as a whole.
By following the above steps, you can ensure that your school, students and staff are protected from all kinds of threats at all times.