Building blocks of a school security plan

Some preventive measures can make all the difference during an emergency

Editor’s note: DA’s new security column will appear quarterly.

The world of security can be daunting. Security tools and technologies are often expensive, and school leaders are not typically trained to know what will offer their institutions the greatest benefit.

It is essential for schools to maximize safety and security, and the best way to begin is by creating a clear plan.

Although almost every school leader will say they have a plan, most schools only have a piece of paper.

For a security plan to function as intended, it must be site-specific and set clear goals.

For instance, a good, overarching goal is to develop a comprehensive security program that mitigates and controls risk to our school, including life, property and brand image.

You should be able to clearly articulate why you take any action, how it relates to your security goals, and why that particular action is a priority over something else.

After creating a goal-oriented plan, it is important to make sure your staff has received proper security education and training.

Education is an intellectual understanding of a subject, while training refers to your overall readiness to actually do what you understand. Your greatest asset will always be your people. If you truly understand the threat, then everything—a desk, a chair, a doorway or a football field—can become potential assets in the face of danger.

You can quickly assess when it is time to run during an emergency and when it is time to hide.

Below are three simple actions that institutions should implement to increase security and safety.

Use plain language to communicate

Most schools use code words for emergency drills: “Code Red” or “Code Yellow.” This is confusing—even high-level military units who do scary things everyday know that plainly saying what you want to say is far more effective than trying to speak in code.

This is especially true during a critical situation, such as an intruder on the premises.

Some schools will say they want to be secretive if there is an intruder. However if you have an intruder, you can be certain he knows that he is an intruder. You are not fooling anyone. Just say it clearly so your people can respond faster.

Know where the controls are

During many different kinds of emergencies, such as fires, tornados or earthquakes, damage can be significantly reduced if gas or electric mains are shut down. However, in most schools, only one person knows where those main shut-off points are located, and that is the only person who has the key.

Clearly mark your utility control points and make sure multiple people know where they are located.

Make your building perimeter harder to penetrate

If you already have locks on your outside doors, the next item you should consider on your list is security film for your windows.

After the doors, the next obvious place a person with bad intentions will try to enter the building is through your windows.

Security film maintains the integrity of the window, even if the glass is broken. It helps to hold the glass in place, acting as a screen that is difficult to breach, even with a sledge hammer or baseball bat.

I believe that simple is better. Make sure that your plan is based on principles such as distance or time.

Ask yourself, “Does this security device offer my community additional time by delaying the threat?”

Never do something just because other schools are doing it. Make sure that what you are doing actually coincides with your security goals.

If you do nothing else, get professional training for your people to know exactly what to do in a variety of dangerous situations.

Ariel Siegelman is a security expert, founder of DRACO GROUP, and consultant to Energy Products Distribution, a supplier of 3M security window film products.

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